Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Westfield of Dreams

The last time I was in a real shopping mall, I was about 12 years old. Walking hand in hand with my American Grandma, in the dead heat of Los Angeles summer, I could think of nothing better than the Thousand Oaks shopping mall to indulge on a Haagen-Dasz ice cream bar, salty popcorn and an air-conditioned movie. Looking back on those fun-filled American old days, I actually remember enjoying these luxurious moments of convenience and practicality. Today, there’s nothing I hate more than an over-crowded, over-heated shopping center. To me, they’ve always come to stand for everything I dislike about American culture, be it sterility or over-consumption. Or so, I thought.

Never in my wildest dreams could I fathom once again setting foot in the prison cell that is the American shopping mall. My London years have led me to erase and forget about the concept of shopping malls all together. It’s just not something I’ve missed or been longing for - at all.

I was taken to Westfield Shopping Center last weekend when I met my friend for a movie at the Vue Cinema in Sheperd’s Bush. Walking towards the designated address, I looked up and was immediately startled by the gargantuan size of this unusual building. I nearly turned my heels in refusal to walk ahead. It was almost organic.  But I fought the urge to walk away and I slowly climbed up the steps of the stadium-looking facility, and little by little, entered the chaotic and euphoric - almost magical world of Westfield. My eyes were gorged with micro-tears of fascination and excitement. How could I have missed this modern marvel these past two years without even the simple curiosity to take a peak? I was disappointed with myself and my judgmental attitude.

So I decided to let myself be carried away. The inside of the monster’s chest is even more enchanting than its asymmetrical and origami-shaped outside fa├žade. While the practical aspect of malls has always bothered me, I’ve never witnessed such brilliant engineering inside and outside the walls of a shopping mall. I looked around me; I transport myself next to Ethan Hawke in Gattaca and Tom Cruise in Minority Report. But this is not a movie; this is not the future; this is real; this is now. This is the pure brilliance of modern mankind. And then I remember to keep walking. I am not in Hollywood, I am in Shepherd’s Bush!

I am surrounded left and right, up an down, by Miu Miu, Dior; Prada; Zadig & Voltaire, Whistles, Massimo Dutti and Cos; Habitat, Waitrose, M&S and H&M; all within a few feet of each other. I suddenly love shopping malls! What was I thinking this whole time? It’s suddenly all about convenience and practicality. I go up numerous escalators and flying elevators and am in awe, even more bewildered by the countless choices of lunch spots. From Pho and Wahacca to Tossed and Chipotle, I cannot think of a better place to be than standing in the middle of London’s best fast food joints. 

I've finally come to the realisation that gems don’t have to be small and hidden. Sometimes, gems are right there in front you the whole time, before you even realize that you are standing right before one. 

Westfield Shopping Center
Ariel Way
London W12 7GF
020 3371 2300