Sunday, November 02, 2008

Westfield: the verdict

In a word, I love it. But then, two things were going to make me biased towards it from the beginning. In the first instance, I was working on the project, understood its' purpose and worked directly with the team who brought it to life. In the second instance I am a total mall-rat. Give me a corridor of air-conditioned, retail opportunities and I'm in heaven.

There again, however, my utter adoration of shopping malls and all that lie within them gave Westfield a lot to live up to. I was lucky enough to have been weaned on the Beverly Centre in LA and La Cantera in San Antonio. I knew my malls from my precincts. I need not have worried though, for as I stood on Westfield's marble floor, bathed in sunlight and looking in disbelief at the vast retail spaces which were still being created just weeks before the launch date, I knew that London was about to be given something rather special.

We, in Britain, have it pretty tough. We're a tiny island, with terrible weather and, at the moment, a pretty scary economic climate. In London all this is compounded by hellish rush-hour conditions, a bullish employment market and soaring prices. And, when it comes to our precious down-time, over-subscription to cultural events make most spur-of-the-moment excursions pretty much hopeless. For me, and no doubt a good percentage of the 500,000 visitors Westfield received in its' first weekend trading, the prospect of a modern, accessible, weather-proof destination complete with all our favorite shops and restaurants is very enticing.

The broadsheets may well proclaim that 'shopping is dead', Polly Toynbee may say that it was 'conceived in a bygone era' and the red-tops may highlight the resulting traffic nightmares, but when all's said and done Westfield is now an integral, and more civilized, part of the London experience and will be for years to come.

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