Spaces of Expenditure

Spaces of expenditure undergo an evolutionary process. New typologies are born, gain popularity, fade, or continually evolve.

Today, rather than shopping occurring within a city, the city is constituted within the shopping. Through this evolution of spaces of expenditure, shopping has become the driving force of urbanity. It has become such an effective catalyst because (1) it is prone to bringing together heterogeneous aspects of urbanity into a connected experience and (2) it does not stay a separate element of the city but rather evens out a density of events that maximizes the promotion of urban activity (Koolhaas, GTS, 194) Perhaps so much so that shopping has flattened the public space, due to the ubiquity of brands and the enormity of international commercialization. [Family Tree of Designer]

Yet historically, the concept of Western public life has always developed parallel to the marketplace. The ancient Greek agora served as a meeting place as well as a platform for sportsmen and political figures. The large, usually rectangular space was surrounded by buildings where public records, important documents, and daily business was run. The stoa, a long building with columns that formed the edge of the agora, was where all the shops were located. The buying and selling of exotic merchandise took place here. Some examples are ivory and gems from Egypt, elephants from India, silk from China, wool from Greece, dye from eastern countries, and grain from areas around the Black Sea. (Source:?)

And in the 1690 France, fashion became a method of escapism, as the world beyond the sheltered couture microcosm was full of countryside famine, war threats, bankruptcy of the nation and brutal winters (DeJean, 44).

The café scene was first made fashionable in the Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighbourhood. They made it chic, and made it cher (DeJean, 11). It also attracted a very different type of clientele than their counterparts elsewhere in Europe. It became a place that elegant women went to show off their latest fashion and hair.

And with this new fashion, shopping was also reinvented. Prior to the age of Louis XIV, fashion was often negotiated through home visits. People rarely shopped in public as the conditions were not designed for shoppers to linger. They were more like storehouses for merchandise with no attention to décor. The bottom half of the shop’s shutters folded down to make a table on which the products were displayed, and the top half folded upwards to form an awning. Thus, customers would remain in the street, never entering the premises. It was revolutionary to show off a range of offerings with displays inside the space. To have luxury goods in surroundingss that were worthy of the purchasers, to entice consumers into the store with designated window displays, these concepts were all new (DeJean, 12). And shoppers were waited on by attractive shopgirls dressed in the latest fashion, a tactic completely unique to the Parisian scene. As precursors to the chic boutiques we now know, many original high-end shops by the century’s end already began to cluster at, the still famed, rue Saint-Honoré.

Therefore, convincing people to buy for the sake of buying was initiated. Thus, shopping became a whole experience, not just another chore. The market became a shopping theatre where consumers spent money because they felt that their lives were somehow transformed for the better by the event. Value was no longer only about price and performance but rather by other factors: aesthetics, elegance, and atmosphere. It was the early ad campaign, with a hefty dose of emotion and drama, promoting status and pleasure by choosing to indulge the self with a particular purchase (DeJean, 19). This is also what instilled the creation of the modern tourism industry. The earliest appearance of “tourism” by the Oxford English Dictionary was in 1872, “born in the 17th c. Englishmen were first to practice it” and the favoured destination was Paris. The first modern guidebook published in 1690-172 introduced foreign visitors to Paris with notes not just on the major monuments but of a new kind of advice: what to eat, where to stay and most importantly, where to shop. And with Paris as the first city anywhere to illuminate its streets after dark on a regular and permanent basis, the shopping hours could be extended, and nightlife would be ever more lengthy, sociable, and entertaining (DeJean, 202-209). The city of lights was also the city of seduction, through installing innovative but basic infrastructure.

In the 1700s, British consumption was fueled by the global trade in eastern luxuries. There was also the introduction of new goods made with modern materials and methods called "semi-luxury". This meant that even though the main selling points seemed to be accurately copied, it still lacked the uniqueness of upper-class quality. At the same time, presentation and selling techniques were developed further, as exteriors of shops were painted and adorned, and interiors were furnished for a more inviting shopping experience. The invention of glass display cases and entire glass storefronts opened up a new world of possibilities of display. (Chung, 512). Because of this, the historian Maxine Berg, posited that "the 18th century is the defining moment in history of consumer culture of the west." (Gundle, 71)

Then in the 1800s, the emergence of the Parisian arcade transformed public life by creating an artificial connectivity beyond the sidewalk. An amalgamation of passage and shopping, the arcade linked previously disjointed areas of the city. Baudelaire was one of the first to write about the flaneur: "a person who walks the city in order to experience it." To be enraptured by the dazzling displays, shop windows, and finery, the commercial sector replicates these qualities en masse. And these ephemeral experiences are curiously unforgettable. They implant themselves as a feature of the city and become a common grammar for the language of luxury. And though people are attracted to these areas, there are financial and cultural obstacles that make acquisition a problem. So strategies of enticement were developed on the basis of showmanship, magic, and religion (Gundle, 73). [to be addressed in later section] Though the aristocracy may no longer dominate consumption, they still have a strong role as tastemakers. Manipulating wants, needs, and aspirations, great efforts in how goods were shown endowed certain areas with an appeal that went much beyond a regular urban street grid (Manhattan in Breakfast at Tiffany's), a quiet fishing town off the Mediterranean (Cannes in To Catch a Thief), and a town struggling to get back on its feet after the Second World War (Rome in La Dolce Vita).

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