If there’s one truism of Bangkok commercial development, especially new shopping malls, it seems to be: Build it, and they will come.
No matter how many enormous, gleaming temples to physicism open, they seem to quickly fill with visitors at all times, as if the mall had always been there and part of their lives.
One shining – or glaring – exception to this has been the 140,000-sqm Central Embassy, a jewel in the Central Group’s crown, which was built on the former grounds of the British Embassy’s garden and opened last May to great fanfare.
Walk in on an average day though and its problem is apparent. No one’s there, as apparent in these photos taken during prime evening hours 306 days after it opened. For this it has earned the nickname “Central Empty.”
Few customers can be found in its stores, and its sweeping, contoured tiers that look designed by United Federation of Planets are clear of all but a few souls, many who seem to be enjoying the air-conditioned long-cut between BTS Chit Lom and Phloen Chit.
Is it the lack of lifestyle destinations which draw people in more frequently than a burning need for a Mink Intrecciato Nappa Rialto bag from Bottega Veneta? Insufficient common areas for people-watching, where visitors can hang out to see and be seen by others?
When it opened in May, the mall’s final form didn’t seem to jive with the principles stated by its architect in an interview last year, just a few months earlier.
“The role of the shopping mall in Asia is changing dramatically as they begin to overtake public institutions and squares as a place for meeting and socialising,” Amanda Levete of AL_A told Architect’s Journal. “This is increasingly true in Thailand, in particular amongst younger generations.”
Photos: Coconuts Bangkok