At the British Council of Shopping Centres’ Annual Conference in Edinburgh in 1991 there was a panel discussion on the future of shopping. When questions were invited, I put forward the view that the panel had not addressed the question at all. They had spoken of the form of centre design, leases and so on. I said that in an era when one could experience flying a 747 from an armchair, it must be possible to use virtual reality to experience visits to a shopping centre — in fact any shopping centre in the world! It was worthy of consideration — and still is — because of the obvious impact it could have on the industry. At that time, I was being somewhat contentious, using a general assumption that the advance of technology had to be seen as a means of retail development in the future. As it was meant as an argumentative question I did not raise the extreme difficulties of authoring such an expensive program. I had no definite ideas or knowledge, but the point of an expert brainstorming discussion group was to indicate where we might go. To my mind, this did not mean better design for lighting or entrance floor mats: we must borrow the introduction to Star Trek™ and consider if it is possible to go where no man has gone before! Naturally, I have given the matter a huge amount of thought since then.
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- Is There a Substitute for the Real Thing? Information Appliances
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