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Thursday24 July 2014

Big business plays at pop-ups in Shoreditch’s Boxpark

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Fashion magnate Roger Wade’s shipping container mall opens in east London

A “retail revolution” has arrived in east London, nestling beneath the bulky concrete flanks of Shoreditch High Street station. 40 shipping containers stacked side by side, with a further 20 perched on top, this is Boxpark – a “living, fertile community of brands,” exclusively for the “edgy and innovative round pegs that can’t afford and won’t fit in to the high street’s square holes.”

So how surprised I was to find Calvin Klein and Nike sitting shoulder to shoulder with Puma and Vans, wedged firmly into the squarest of square high street holes.

The brainchild of Boxfresh fashion magnate Roger Wade, and designed by Waugh Thistelton architects, Boxpark represents the latest step in the appropriation of the aesthetic of informal, provisional economies by big business. Backed by Hammerson and Ballymore, who have long had plans to redevelop the site with a 50-storey tower, the project is perhaps one of the least imaginative uses of the shipping container realised to date. The ground floor frontage presents a relentless strip mall of identikit units, an endless rack of uninviting 12 x 2.3m dead-end corridors, the upper level only relieved somewhat by occasional picnic tables.

So protective of his revolutionary vision, Wade has launched legal action against a container shopping mall in Christchurch – constructed to house businesses devastated by the earthquake – for infringement of intellectual property rights. Might we politely point him to the largest shopping mall in Europe, the 69 hectare Tolchock market in Odessa built in 1989, home to 6,000 independent traders in a dense urban quarter – made entirely of shipping containers.

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