Two well-built shopping districts in two major cities of the world tell an interesting tale of similarity. Pictures of and in the vicinity of Les Champs-Elysees and Regent Street are placed side by side to illustrate characteristics of the modern city in the time of their inception, as well as how they continue to function in elitism today.

The two pictures below shed light on how the effects of strict dimensions and geometry were respected in order to produce visually impressive buildings like these. These displays the desire for order, which is characteristic of modernity.

Large glass windows contrasted medieval-style architecture with smaller windows. They represent transparency and accountability, which reflected the transition from crime-ridden to safer, open spaces. As these shopping districts were commissioned to be built by the city governments, the government could have used these buildings to impress upon people this new way of governance and expectation of compliance to measures such as census, monitoring and order.

The use of stones, instead of wood and straw, displayed grandeur and prestige as stones were more expensive to procure and difficult to transport. Intricate carvings and patterns can also be seen, especially in the example from Paris. This further illustrates the superiority of people who own and frequent these buildings and areas, as the architecture extends beyond functionality.

The legacy of these shopping districts survive to present day. Unlike the departmental stores we see today, these streets retain their charm by retaining prestige. Products remain displayed in glass windows in a “curated”, exhibition-like fashion. The perception of preciousness deters those who do not possess the cultural capital to approach and enter these shops.

Featured Image:
Taken by Yi Le Danielle Poh with Canon G16

  • Of Regent Street, London: November 2016

Other Images:
taken by Yi Le Danielle Poh with Canon G16

  • Of Paris: September 2016
  • Of London: November 2016

Thrift, N. J., & Kitchin, R. (Eds.). (2009). International encyclopedia of human geography. Amsterdam: Elsevier.