Jan '05 - Jan '07
I will give you all the perspectives about this problem. For the last days, since it's opening on Saturday it's the number 1 subject in town.
I remember last summer having a discussion with one of the architects involved in the project. I was just explaining him the last impression after going to the mall in Bucharest, an ugly, small place crowded by low quality people. Though we agreed that a mall always ends up attracting all types of people (after all it's not a museum or school), Timisora needed badly such a place and a mall was the only chance to attract brands in such a town. Time proofed us right.
1 why we needed it
Timisoara's main shopping places are 2 boxes (not even big) in which you can mostly buy Chinese/ Turkish products. The old shopping center, build in the 70s is way too small to cover the needs of an ever expanding town and, though situated in the heart of the town and some desperate attempts to change its face, it never attracted investors. So the quality of the merchandise wasn't too different from the one in the boxes. Probably the place that attracts most people interested in buying stuff is not actually a shop but something more like a flea market. A friend from Germany told me he had heard that there are markets in Romania in which you can buy everything from the black-market. Like an organized and accessible black market. You can look at it like that but here, every local thinks of it like something natural/normal. Mostly on weekends people gather and sell whatever they can. Among the top products there are lots of things brought from Hungary/ Germany (partly this is a reminiscence from the past/ by now you find most of that products in local shops, maybe a little more expensive but still...; there is also the belief that products from the same brand have a higher quality in Germany then the ones sold here), brand clothes (by brand please understand nike, adidas, h&m etc), every latest computer game, DVD, program at 1.5 euro / CD (movies on DVD before they even get to cinema / I want to thank the academy members for this!) and of course, everything you could possibly think of at second, third, fourth hand (very often more expensive then their initial price). Did I mention that everything is organized by the city hall and that you have to pay entrance?
The only place susceptible of working as a nice shopping place is the town center (which is also the old center, mostly houses from the 19th century). Though the ground floor of most houses has a commercial or public function, it doesn't work. There are some shops that are ok but there is no continuity and you end up running trough the whole town for 4 shops situated in different places. I suppose this is also the main reason why big brands are not attracted by the town. If they find an appropriate location they can always end up having a second hand shop as a neighbor. No investment protection.
2 the architect
2-3 years ago a guy thought about making a mall in Timisoara. He had just opened another one in Iasi (big city in Romania, regional importance for Moldavia) and thought about expanding his investment. After some financial calculations he found out that is was easier for him to make his own architecture firm than to hire one. And so he did...
The chief architect is a former teacher of mine (one of the best), unfortunately only for one semester. I adore him. He is the kind of architect / person nobody can say anything mean of, everybody respects him.
His most acclaimed project is a house, here in Timisoara, made several years ago. A couple of month it was even published in ”˜l'architecture d'aujourd'hui'.
I haven't heard his version of the story but I imagine he also thought about what monster could appear if he didn't get involved. I might be wrong. Other say it's just pride, after all it's the most important construction in Timisoara in the last and future couple of years (probably even for a longer period).
3 and then there came the mall
Due to the continuous cutting of funds and the inability of the constructor to respect the deadline (anything familiar?) the mall was opened last Saturday, about 1-2 month later then planed. I suppose the owner made himself some serious calculations as at the inauguration the mall was not even ready, mainly on the interior. In some parts there is no finishing yet, in other parts you can see everything was made in hurry (paving that already has to be replaced etc).
From an architectural point of view the most often thing I have heard was ”˜eclectic'. Many different parts that are not connected, too many materials in other cases. On the other hand you find some very nice details.
It is indeed very easy to jump at the neck of such a project, like most people in town did. But I have to say I like it (speaking of the interior, the atmosphere, the stone on the faÃ§ade). I feel good inside, it's not too crowded, it's nice, some beautiful details enjoy your eyes (and some Mies chairs - I love them). And it's incomparable to the malls in Bucharest. I don't know how to say it exactly, don't want it to sound like ”˜for Timisoara it's ok', but... I can see its negative points, things I dislike, would have preferred in a different manner but it also has a bright side. For a mall it is extremely enjoyable and I'm one of the very few who are not destroying it with criticism just because it is so handy to do it (not that it is that bad but there are some obvious things you can very easily comment upon)...
As about finding stuff to buy... Timisoara has been upgraded and you have finally access to the world's oldest and most efficient therapy: shopping.
here are some pics/ i wasn't able to make my own but will asap.