Ušce Shopping Center in Belgrade – Magnetic Attraction
It is big, it is red, and it has the attraction of a magnet. The new shopping centre Ušce is a landmark, a kind of urban sculpture, at the interface of the old and new city of Belgrade.
Serbia’s latest and largest shopping center, the Ušce in Belgrade, is more than just a consumer paradise. Its bright red façade is a clear signal from a city that wants to grow. Red stands for power, for energy and for attention. The latter is unmistakeably demanded by the building created on an area destroyed in a NATO attack in 1999. The ensemble composed of Ušce Tower and Ušce shopping centre is visible from afar.
Tens of thousands of visitors stream inside the building through the three entrances between 10am and 10pm every day. After all, one could spend several days or even weeks there in an effort to experience everything. Visitors have a choice of 140 shops selling most major international brands and fashion labels, many cafés and restaurants, a multiplex cinema with 11 theatres, bowling alleys and amusement arcades, as well as a supermarket on an area of 4,000m². It is a world of its own. There is virtually nothing that is not available, no chance to escape consumerism.
The two investors of the €150m project had reservations about an excessive emphasis on commercialism at the planning stage. For this reason MPC Holding and Meryll Lynch commissioned the famous architectural firm Chapman Taylor with the design of the façade and interior. They were confident to achieve something special for the city of Belgrade in this way, something beyond the simple idea of a shopping center. The architects had already clearly demonstrated in several international projects, that the two aspects – commerce and architecture – can be combined with great success.
Gerardo Sannella, the architect responsible for the project, does not actually see any contradiction in this as such. “We are particularly good at designing attractive, functional and powerful architecture, without neglecting the commercial aspect in the process. After all, everything has to be commercial nowadays. Every museum has a shop and a café. In a sense then, every art exhibition is an art shopping centre,” he explains.
Ušce’s architecture is based on strong contrasts. The huge signal red façade first attracts visitors, while the clear, peaceful and light interior makes them want to stay there. Gentle, natural tones please the eye and form a neutral space for shops and attractions.
“Our task was to create a setting for different types of shops. So we worked with white a lot to make sure that all the attention is directed to the products offered by the shopping and food areas,” says Gerardo Sannella about the design concept.
The interesting contrast between exterior and interior is continued in the lighting design, which was carried out in close cooperation with the lighting designers Voltaire Light Design, Milan and the electrical engineers BDSP, Belgrade.
While the façade of the shopping centre is illuminated by strong sources of light, the Zumtobel lighting inside is calm and focussed. The galleries distributed on three ‘ships’ and four floors are spanned by wide sky-lit areas. In the evening, this natural light source is replaced by a combination of Xeno spotlights and Miros projector-mirrors sending soft light downwards. Suspended ceilings, recesses and projections provide space for illumination with light ribbons, creating an alternation of lively and quiet areas. Luminous ceilings bathe the main entrance and the central areas in bright warm light.
Supplementary downlights integrated in the ceilings emphasise specific areas and guide visitors along the rows of shops. Narrow light lines reminiscent of an illuminated bar code are scattered in between. Most of the luminaires can be dimmed, which is experienced as more pleasant than a constant light intensity. The lighting is completely controlled by the light management system Luxmate professional.
Architecture and lighting are perfectly matched in Ušce and complement each other in a unique manner. “The emphasis is on the overall result perceived rather than the individual light sources.” Not just a task requiring the necessary technical competence for architect Gerardo Sannella, but a philosophy: “A perfect realisation of architecture and light is to make people feel the light rather than see it. To make artificial light appear to be natural – that’s the real art.”