Shopping mall shaped like a giant sphere to be demolished?

Written by  //  February 10, 2012  //  Profiled Projects  //  Comments Off on Shopping mall shaped like a giant sphere to be demolished?

One of the world’s more unusually shaped shopping centres, Core Pacific City (Taipei), is rumoured to be potentially slated for demolition after being open for only 10 years.  The project was designed by the Jerde Partnership, the architecture firm known for unconventional retail centres such as Namba Parks (Osaka) and Kanyon (Istanbul).  Local media is reporting that the site’s owners are in early talks with city staff about getting a rezoning which allows high density residential.

Rumour or not, it is clear things are not working out exactly as intended for the developers of Core Pacific City.  When it opened back in 2001, it made headlines around the world and won Jerde a design award (although if you can build a retail centre these days and not win an award, I would be more impressed).  Shopping Centres Today published an article in 1999 titled “Taiwan’s 24-hour ‘Core’ seen as model center” where the ever-optimist developer estimates that the project will attract 50 million visitors a year.  Open 24 hours a day, and linked to a “24 hour virtual online mall”, the “city within a city” is described as a model for Asia.  Although comical in retrospect, the comments reflect a common mentality at that time about future trends in retail.

The most striking feature is the imposing 11 floor sphere, covered in granite imported from Finland – not exactly the cheapest building to construct.  I’m not a huge fan from a design perspective – the whole idea of a retail centre is to invite people to enter, but from the street it looks like an impenetrable fortress.  I think if I make anymore jokes about Jerde’s projects resembling the Death Star from Star Wars I’m going to be ostracized from the retail community!

Despite offering the ability to bungee jump indoors (featured on the Amazing Race!), sales have been less than spectacular.  A number of problems have plagued Core Pacific City, including:

  • Poor location with no direct rapid transit access
  • A confusing floor plan
  • A circular circulation path with single-loaded corridors
  • Low internal floor heights
  • The sheer vertical height of the project (considering the lack of adjacent density and transit)
  • Competition from the Xinyi Business District (featuring Taipei 101 and with MRT access)

Meanwhile, residential prices in Taipei have climbed by 200% to 300% since the mall was opened, making redevelopment more financially attractive.

I’m not sure the failure here is due to an attempt to be too far ahead of curve in terms of innovation, as much as it is just neglecting basic retail principles.  Retail is a constantly evolving land use, but basic principles have remained true for centuries.  The irony is that Core Pacific City itself was a redevelopment of a former department store and hotel.  Hopefully the re-redeveloped project lasts a bit longer!

Research provided by Ronald Chen

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Reurbanist is a multi-disciplinary firm that blends land use economics with urban planning and economic development. At its core, Reurbanist believes that great urban places that are compelling and vibrant must find success at both a fiscal and social level. Stronger cities and urban destinations translate into improved job growth, municipal tax revenue, and a higher quality of life for residents.

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