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not only is shopping melting into everything, but everything is melting into shopping…shopping has methodically encroached on a widening spectrum of territories so that it is now, arguably, the defining activity of public life”1

When in Rome, we were all assigned a public space at random which gave me the Piazza di Trevi as a site of focus, the space in which the famous Baroque Trevi Fountain stands. Giovanni Battista Nolli drew his map of the city for the Pope in 1748, around the time Salvi was in the final stages of constructing the Trevi Fountain. The Piranesi etchings of this period (far left) and later ones showing it completed demonstrate the cart selling beginnings of the fringe retail activity that the piazza now exhibits with a surround of retail units such as United Colours of Bennetton and Gelaterias.

My updated version of the map uses the same graphical principles of civic space shown in white. So the retail units and shopping arcade of the Galleria Piazza Colonna are examples of the new civic typologies that evolved over the past few centuries. In addition to this massive growth of the presence of shopping in the city, the government of Italy and the Roman mayor’s office seek to increase tourism and streamline the capital’s infrastructure to allow tours to flow through the sights of the city more efficiently.2 Technologies that are the evolutionary descendent of space syntax3 have been developed and are used by huge corporations like Wall-Mart to model statistics to create a numerical image of the city which they can use to predict future trends and sites for new retail zones.4 It can only be a matter of time before this is applied to Rome as a study of tourist flows for economic gain, and the city becomes a giant theme park where the perimeter boundary is unknown but the rides are unique.


1: Sze Tsung Leong, And then there was shopping, The Harvard Design School Project on the City 2: Guide to Shopping, p129
2: Sebastiano Brandolini, Rome New Architecture, Skira, 2008, p12
3: A theory of urban planning and design created by Bill Hillier and colleagues which uses axis of movement to predict and design hierarchies of human behaviour in the city
4: Sze Tsung Leong, Ulterior Spaces, The Harvard Design School Project on the City 2: Guide to Shopping, p765

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Printworld fair

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[shopping} why has it become such a basic aspect of our existence? Because it is synonymous with perhaps the most significant and fundamental development to give form to modern life: the unfettered growth and acceptance of the market economy as the dominant global standard”1

Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace was designed to house the ‘Exhibition and Industry of All Nations’ in 1851 and it became a pivotal moment in the history of public spectacle, mass gathering, tourism, and trade. As a vehicle to demostrate the creativity and industrial power of the nations of the world it was the first of its kind. It was unparalleled as an event, and provided a new architectural format capable of absorbing unprecedented urban congestion. During the 6 months of the term of the exhibition, 6.1 million persons arrived in London, 65 percent more than in the preceding year, and foreign visitors to the city increased by 275 percent.2

As a result of its acclaim it sparked the invention of the department store, a progression which was commented on by historian John McKean when he said…

this sense of the voyeur in a transformed nature moves directly from the Crystal Palace to the department store, where the exhibition’s prohibition ‘no price labels allowed’ has been thrown off. Thus its immediate progeny are those exhibitions where the goods may be devoured not just by the eyes but by the wallets too.”3

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movement section_drawing2

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The Next Big Thing
Recent events have shown shopping to be one of the most unstable activities despite its scale of operation. Its reliance on external factors like national economy means it has to keep up with society, which is one of the reasons it has to constantly keep shifting and reinventing itself. The diagram on the left demonstrates this idea as it traces the new forms of retail and their ever expanding scale in the city.

the Next Big Thing is the recurring promise of a new typology that will deliver greater profits and higher consumer satisfaction” 4

So instead of going against this irrefutable social condition and despite recent dips in the retail industry, my project looks to take advantage of the market economy. Over the past decade, Britain’s creative sector has grown at twice the rate of the economy as a whole. “The creative industries must move from the margins to the mainstream of economic and policy thinking, as we look to create the jobs of the future”.5 Taking the precedent we set with the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the inventive skill demonstrated by its design, can we provide a scenario for the trade of British exports in the international market, a sector which the government is so keen to push our prestigious creative industry out into.


1: Sze Tsung Leong, And then there was shopping, The Harvard Design School Project on the City 2: Guide to Shopping, p129
2: Richard D. Altick, The Shows of London, Cambridge, Belknap Press, 1978, p457-60
3: John McKean, Crystal Palace: Joseph Paxton and Charles Fox, London, Phaidon Press, 1994, p32
4: Harvard Guide, p527
5: DCMS, Creative Britain: New talents for the new economy, 2008, p8

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