Thursday, July 30, 2009

ION - I'm Off

The newest, most elite, shopping mall in Singapore is a disaster. ION Singapore has a lot of hype to live up to and a lot of inconvenient road diversions to apologize for. But it fails. To quote a buddy, "The park was better."

"It feels like a basement," he went on.

I agree. The sense of being underground is almost claustrophobic as the walls of the unopened shops seem to close in on you. The walkways run in eccentric loop around three foci, sort of like a clover, and you can never see very far ahead of you. At any given time it's almost impossible to say where you are. Maybe there may be a greater sense of space when the boards come down when the next lot of stores open, but I doubt it. Signage is terrible. When you come down an elscalator you might expect some information on the shops on this new level, but obviously, at this supposed high level of shopping, information is .

And I have strange memory that there was no seating in the food court. That can't be right can it? Sorry, I only glanced into that area, but if there is seating, it is restricted.

Now it's also easy to get lost in the huge Vivocity mall (close to where I work) down near Sentosa which is similarly multicurved (it's meant to be sixties trippy) but at least there you feel the openness of their large space. It's more of an agoraphobic response in Vivo.

In ION, you might as well be in the Cu Chi tunnels outside Saigon.

"Where everything comes together," says their slogan. What they failed to say is how cramped that coming together is going to feel.


The facade of ION is just that. A facade. Like Vivocity, the exterior of the building is all just tacked onto a conventional rectanguloid building. ION's glitzy blue glass curves are not intrinsic to the structure of the building. It's all for show. Unlike truly iconic buildings such as the Sydney Opera House where the external shape IS the structure of the building, this is just a meretricious facade.

Australian architect Robin Boyd wrote a book about the horror, as he saw it, of Australian architecture in the fifties, of the plain structure with extra things stuck on like a Mr Potato-head game that was the way homes were built in those times. He called his book, "The Great Australian Ugliness".

If I was writing about these examples of modern Singaporean architecture, I would call it "The Great Singaporean Speciousness," for under the shiny surface it's banal, restrictive and claustrophobic.

Speciousness is of course the dominant philosophy of Singapore, so I guess I shouldn't expect much else.



savannah said...

i hate malls, especially theme malls. i'm going to look for "The Great Australian Ugliness" there's way too much of this type of building being palmed off as architecture xoxox

(are you feeling any better, sugar?)

Dick Headley said...

But do they have Vegemite sandwiches?

expat@large said...

Sav: it's VERY dated. It's one you'ld only find in a second hand bookstores in Adelaide or somewhere. OR you could use Google Books!

DH: I wonder if BBC has infringed copyright by included that snippet.

One thing ION does NOT have, and this another reason why you won't be seeing me there again, is a bookstore!

expat@large said...

p.s. Sav: I forgot to mention my back ache and my recent ear infection... I got through the airport temperature check in Hong Kong tonight so I can't be THAT sick! Just a small cough every now and then, I'm fine really. Look to the blog in a minute for latest update!

Stephen Folan said...

I've just finished 'The Timeless Way of Building' by Christopher Alexander which descrives how buildings that work come about. I think the principles he describes have a broader application and it is written well. Highly recommended.

expat@large said...

H-G: thanks. Izzy has some books on architecture and people spaces in cities in her room. If I can crack the code to get in (she's in Finland)...

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