Horse Shoe

Yardley, Monday 31 December 2001
Leave me in a mall somewhere and I get lost. No matter how beautiful the architecture, I lose my way in the maze of corridors, all with identical corners. The most difficult part is finding the exit.

Shopping centres were obviously designed with women in mind, a collection of diverse stores, without apparent order. Were malls designed to be the exclusive domain of the berry picker ( and thus meant to exclude mammoth hunters?

  • Most malls are never penetrated by daylight, dark mazes.
  • All the corridors look similar, with square corners, exactly like a maze.
  • There is no overall structure, no natural direction.
Some cities have the same problem. I get equally lost in the checkerboard patterns of The Hague and Manhattan, with one difference: The shadowed streets of Manhattan are numbered. My detour will be one block maximum. The named lanes of The Hague keep me wandering.

Yet there are malls, even whole cities that pose no problem to me.

  • I have never lost my way in the Mall ( on Jalan Putra in Kuala Lumpur. Three sides of the building house shops. The 4th side, a glass wall, forms the entrance. The entrance is a source of daylight, always visible, a beacon for the mammoth hunter shopping.
    Why do spiders
    never get lost
    in their own webs?

    Could it be
    the unique crossings
    teaming up with
    gravity telling
    which side is up?

  • Old cities with circular canals are similarly easy to navigate.

    The curves of the canal always circle the centre. And the tighter the curve, the closer one is to the centre.

    The sun tells North from South. Walk around an old city and you'll always know where you are in relation to the centre.

Idea: Construct malls like the Putra Mall, old cities and spider webs. Make sure that every corner, every corridor, every crossing is unique.

No matter where you are in the complex, you immediately know your position. nested horse shoes as a map for a mall

  1. Build in concentric circles with a natural entrance.
  2. with straight links to and from the centre.
  3. The smallest shops are close to the central exit. The big department stores are in the middle of the outer ring.
  4. Put something pleasant at the exit, a landmark such as a food-court or some bars.
  5. Allow daylight to shine in, so one knows whether one is west, south or east of the centre.
Till next week.
Special thanks to town and city planner Jan Wischmeijer for his inspiring words.