Last week I decided to check out Elements, the new shopping center located in an area of Tsim Sha Tsui called West Kowloon. This is perhaps the city’s newest neighborhood and has been undergoing a huge spurt of growth over the last few years. Elements anchors several massive high-rise apartment complexes and the third tallest building in the world, the ICC, which is currently under construction.
Situated on a swath of land close to the harbor, West Kowloon has amazing views of Hong Kong Island and thus makes it a prime residential location. The same developer who put together the IFC complex across the water, created the Elements shopping mall. Similar to the IFC in Central, Elements is located above a transportation hub, Kowloon Station, which connects the Tung Chung MTR line with the Airport Express train. In addition, the building is located right at the edge of the Western Tunnel, an underwater crossing point used to enter Kowloon from Hong Kong Island by vehicle.
The Elements mall is yet another squeaky-clean upscale shopping center. Highlights include: a Three Sixty supermarket; The Grand cinema, which is equipped with special interactive seats; a large ice-skating rink; and Metro Books, a big bookstore. All the usual brands are present plus a few firsts.[photopress:three_sixty_supermarket_Ele.jpg,full,pp_image] [photopress:Grand_Cinema_Elements_Kowlo.jpg,full,pp_image] [photopress:Grand_cinema_Elements_Hong_.jpg,full,pp_image] [photopress:Elements_ice_skating_rink_H.jpg,full,pp_image] [photopress:Metro_Books_Elements_Kowloo.jpg,full,pp_image]
After walking the halls for half an hour, I started to get a little depressed. One of my biggest complaints about contemporary urban Asia is the lack of distinct culture and soul. The immaculate shops, filled with name brands from all over the world are devoid of any local flair. There’s something cold and homogenized about these spaces. Life according to these somewhat sterile compounds seems to revolve around mass consumption.
It’s difficult for me to fault those who aspire to settle into life here, or the developers for creating an environment that people want. If you’re accustomed to dilapidated conditions and a lack of shopping choice, these developments represent a shining beacon of success and modernity.
However this formula leaves little room for unique culture to sprout and survive. They seem to place convenience over character. Without local character, the world will be a much more boring place.
Unfortunately this is not just a trend confined to Hong Kong, but can be seen all throughout Asia. The scary thing is that Hong Kong provides an inspiration for Mainland China, who looks to emulate the city’s urban planning in developing dozens of other cities.
After I had nearly given up hope, a little local culture reared its head! Walking through the halls I came upon a crowd. Looking down from one floor above, I saw two lions traditionally used to celebrate new shops posing for the camera.[photopress:Lion_Dance_Lucky_store_Hong.jpg,full,pp_image]
A few photo-opps later the drumming began and they sprang to life. I was just in time for the opening of the new Lucky Jeans store, their first retail outlet in Asia.[photopress:Elements_Lucky_Jeans_store_.jpg,full,pp_image]
On my way out I saw the local group Soler performing on stage for Lucky Jeans.[photopress:Lucky_Jeans_Elements_Hong_K.jpg,full,pp_image] [photopress:Soler_Hong_Kong_music.jpg,full,pp_image]
I’ve written about these musical twins before here. The song they played as they took the stage was a moving piece about love. The melancholy I had felt before vanished, and I exited Elements inspired once again.
Elements address: 1 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. Above the Kowloon Station Airport Express.