URBANISM | SM + The Many Malls of Manila
Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s long-time prime minister, called air conditioning the most important invention of the 20th century. Though historians seldom place it at the top of the list, most would include it among the hundred most important inventions of the century. The person who did most to develop this technology was Willis Haviland Carrier.
In the land of the flip-flop:
“Honey, what does “SM” stand for?” I asked during my first trip to the Philippines. “Shoemart,” came the reply.
Shoe mart? I knew about Imelda’s amazing collection of footwear and the collective Pinoy obsession with shoes, but it seem and a bit weird that all the huge (and I mean big) malls from Cebu to Pasay were “shoe marts.”
“Vintage Shoe Mart” by Rich Rom (detail below)
Tbe original ShoeMart logo, now abbreviated to “SM.” The original looks good; it’s of its era. It’s time for a new logo however; the SM by itself is rather ugly.
The SM story is a quintessential rags-to-riches story that began in 1946 when Henry Sy (the Philippines’ “King of Malls”) opened his first Shoemart in Quiapo, Metro Manila.
From that one modest store emerged the Philippines’ dominant retail force.
Sure, there are down-scale malls …
… and plenty of ’em. But Henry Sy and the SM Group brought air-conditioned window shopping to the masses. In the process, he became the wealthiest of Filipinos and shaped the urban form of Asian cities. More on the story:
BTW, my favourite Manila mall is not part of the SM Group. It’s the Shang in Ortigas Center (“Shangri-La Plaza is beyond a mall – it is an experience and a lifestyle”). I like it because it seems to have what I need, especially a decent-sized National Book Store and good (i.e. non-Nescafé) coffee. It’s the most relaxing (if that’s possible) of your shopping opportunities whilst in Manila.
And, finally, though not about the many malls of Manila, a note about the mallification of the islands: Imelda Marcos is available to unveil your air conditioned pile.
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- 2009/12/31 / 19:42