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Retailing high on architects' shopping lists

NEWS: The British Council for Shopping Centres' Annual Conference took place earlier this month. Tim Battle reports on the architects making waves in this growing sector

Shopping is big business for the construction industry, with over £685 million spent on the construction of purpose-built shopping centres and retail parks in 2000. In the past two years the level of shopping centre floorspace has increased by nearly 10 per cent, to 2.09 million m 2.The annual conference of the British Council for Shopping Centres, which took place in Birmingham, offered a stage for the major property players to strut their stuff. Architects, being further down the food chain, lack the financial firepower to dress such lavish shop windows. But architects and their work were much in evidence.

Planning minister Lord Falconer gave a keynote address stressing the importance government is placing on good urban design, and he highlighted the impending Green Paper in which the balance of planning decisions is likely to shift in favour of growth.

Vittorio Radice, chief executive of Selfridges, gave a sparkling presentation on the politics of shopping in Esfahan in Iran in 1612 - the place that inspired many squares around the world, including the Red Square in Moscow - where the GUM department store, the largest in the world with more than 93,000m 2of retail space, is located. Radice pointed out that since the early days of retailing, good architecture had responded to the demands of large-scale retailing. Bon Marche in Paris opened in 1869; the Carson Pirie Scott in Chicago, designed in 1899 by Louis Sullivan, remains as contemporary today as it was a century ago; and La Samaritaine in Paris, built in 1933 by Frantz Jourdain, still offers the best views of Paris.

This was by way of introducing the new Selfridges flagship building in Birmingham by Future Systems, which is designed to inspire and involve people. It will represent art, renewal, regeneration and new life.

The conference exhibition area had two architectural exhibitors that caught the eye:

Chetwood Associates and a newcomer, Cubicspace Studios (left). Louis Chetwood talked avidly of the mainland Europe model for mixed-use developments, which he is keen to see adopted for UK inner-city brownfield sites.

lOn 16 May the RIBA and The Architects' Journal, in association with the BCSC, are holding a one-day conference looking at examples of inner-city regeneration. For more information call Martin Davies on 0207 505 6613.

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