In 2013, Paris will be home to a new shopping center located smack-dab at the intersection of the Left and Right Banks of the Seine. Why in the age of e-commerce would a developer, in this case Apsys, build a monstrous brick-and-mortar mall in one of the most romantic cities in the world? Turns out, the New Beaugrenelle, designed by the Paris-based firm Valode & Pistre, has been on the boards for about 10 years, forcing Apsys to throw an interior design competition for a concept that, it hopes, will attract shoppers who can otherwise avoid checkout lines by ordering everything on their home computers. The winning scheme, courtesy of Agence Search: Huge oval wooden lattices suspended in the atriums of the mall’s two connected volumes.
Agence Search drew inspiration for the structures from Étienne-Louis Boullée’s 1784 concept for a spherical memorial to Sir Isaac Newton, with the goal of creating a modern-day brand. Per the firm’s press release: “In today’s increasingly competitive environment, the architecture of shopping malls has come to play a fundamental role in their commercial success. Architecture can distinguish the shopping environment to create a sense of specificity, of differentiation.”
In those terms, the design–although derivative of the Hermès store in Paris–does the trick, creating a remarkable spectacle that is visible through the buildings’ facades. But functionally, it’s got some holes: Visitors might feel as if they’ve gotten caught in a lattice net as they travel through them in order to get from one floor to another. And while the wood exudes warmth, it also might have the unintended effect of blocking light from streaming into the atrium.
Perhaps these quibbles are neither here nor there: Agence Search may have unwittingly helped to design the 2013 memorial to the mall.