mandag 23. november 2009

Streets With No Names

The first modern Norwegian shopping centre -- or shopping mall -- opened its doors in 1953 outside Oslo, but the real building boom in this sector started in the 1980s. Trondheim entered the new era with the opening of its first suburban shopping mall in 1987, at Tiller, 8 kilometres south of the city centre.

In most cities in this country you are now likely to find a shopping mall round every corner, and another few in the suburban "wastelands" on the outskirts. As elsewhere on the globe, these new (sub)urban landscapes under glass canopies offer a mixture of dreams and utility, and are of course irresistible: They have brought us a promised land of eternal summer and Italian gelato all year round in well-lit and sheltered surroundings.

Sheltered, that is, in more than one sense. The possibilities for effortless consumption and a couple of hours out of the house but protected from the harsh realities of the outside world are alluring, and equally accessible to wheelchair users and pram pushers and everybody else, provided there is money in our accounts or our pockets. What is more, there are no beggars to make us feel uncomfortable: the uniformed staff of the private security firms see to that. There are no buskers to make us wonder how much we owe them for the brief moments of happiness they provide us with, no smokers to provoke our asthma, and no storms or icy pavements to remind us of global warming or the fact that we live close to the North Pole -- or indeed that we are one-off physical beings on borrowed time. We can concentrate on our shopping or our espresso-based beverage, surrounded by others in the same position: united by our ability to spend.

The first mall in Trondheim has of course been followed by several others since the first customers were welcomed inside a couple of decades ago, each new one more elegant than the previous. The first, suburban mall remains the largest, however. It was expanded considerably at the turn of the millennium, and next year, another expansion is scheduled to double its current size.

In the foreseeable future, it seems that consumption will continue to rule supreme, recession or not. Shopping in surroundings protected from the elements and from unwanted reminders of social problems and their representatives is continuously gaining ground. In ever-expanding marble-paved streets with no names...

(Photos and text: © Lise Utne)

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