'Perfect Day' / Resurrecting the Shopping Centres in Shrewsbury
The shopping centre model creates an artificial interior environment with air conditioning and escalators that facilitate the ultimate shopping experience, free from distractions. This introverted characteristic allowed shopping centres to be repeated across the country without significant consideration of their context. In the case of Shrewsbury, this led to the construction of 3 shopping centres that ignore the market town's medieval character, and sit on a site that was left empty throughout history due to frequent flooding. As a result of this contextual oversight, as well as problems relating to a wider shift in societal attitudes towards shopping, such as the rise of online shopping and closing down of major retail stores, the 3 buildings have become neglected spaces, one of which is now awaiting demolition.
My thesis reconciles the 3 shopping centres in Shrewsbury with their context by reuniting them with their typological origins. According to American architect Victor Gruen, shopping centres hold the potential to provide "the needed place for participation in modern community life that the ancient Greek Agora, the Medieval Marketplace, and our own Town Squares provided in the past." Through the insertion of rational and legible public spaces into the outdated shopping centre structures, a series of interior urban rooms are created that reassert the value of public space and transform the under-utilised buildings into highly functioning mechanisms capable of hosting a variety of changing functions. Applying social functions that celebrate aspects of public performance such as theatres, concert halls and sport facilities to the flexible public spaces created, ensures that the buildings maintain a constant relevance in a world beyond shopping, and work together to provide a memorable experience that contributes to the creation of a 'Perfect Day' in the town centre of Shrewsbury.
It is widely accepted that we should protect the buildings we love, however, it is also necessary that we maintain those that represent the scars of our past. These scars are who we are, they protect us against nostalgic longings, and, if reworked successfully, can point towards a new future.