Other Dreamworlds: Malls and Gated Communities

Malls and Other Dreamworlds

Shopping malls, home to major multinational brands, are another feature of transnational Buenos Aires. The city of Buenos Aires has several malls including Alto Palermo and Paseo Alcorta in Palermo, Abasto Shopping Center in Abasto, Patio Bullrich in Recoleta, and others throughout the city. Many malls cater to tourists with free shuttle services to and from hotels as well as special discounts for tourists. Alan Patrick writes “Abasto Shopping Center” for the website Buenos Aires Tours, providing a detailed review of the largest shopping mall within the city limits. He notes the center has more than 250 brands with Nike, Lacoste, and YSL among the brands shoppers can experience. The center was home to a busy food market from 1934-1984 before being reopened as a shopping mall in 1999. Structures were added to the back and side of the building but the original Art Deco façade of the building was preserved. The mall boasts many amenities including a 12-screen cinema, an amusement and games arcade, a large ferris wheel and child-scale city at The Museo de Los Ninos, and a huge food court on the top floor of the building.

Abasto Shopping Mall
Abasto Shopping Mall
The interior of Abasto Shopping Mall
The interior of Abasto Shopping Mall

In “Spectacles of modernity: Transnational imagination and local hegemonies in neoliberal Buenos Aires”, Emanuela Guano studies the use of transnational spaces in Buenos Aires. These transnational spaces are places of consumption where people can flaunt their wealth for all to see. They are spaces that exclude others and especially the urban poor from using these areas. The train is a good example of how the poor have been excluded from the right to the city. The train was built not to serve the needs of the local residents but to attract tourists and foreigners and meet what they desired in a vacation destination. The train goes to all the satellite, elite towns on the coast, avoiding the city. At each train stop there are many shops selling tourist goods, another attempt to appease a foreigner.

 

Gated Communities

In “Do Gates Negate the City? Gated Communities Contribution to the Urbanisation of Suburbia in Pilar, Argentina”, Sonia Roitman and Nicholas Phelps explore the impacts of gated communities on a suburb of Buenos Aires. Pilar is an outer-ring suburb of Buenos Aires that has seen dramatic growth over the past 30 years due to the increasing popularity of gated communities. The city saw a more than 300% increase in the number of gated communities in the city during the 1990’s. There is a stark contrast between the clean and green gated communities and the self-built housing of the poor just outside the walls of gated communities. While it can be argued that gated communities have benefits such as jobs, taxes for the local government, and retail, it can also easily be argued they do more harm for the community. The required community improvements are few and far between, jobs are low-skilled and low-paid, and gated communities create large areas accessible only to the privileged, fragmenting the city while at the same time burdening the city with the problems of traffic, access, and other issues.

 

Pedro Pirez examines the impacts on citizenship and quality of life for residents in “Bunos Aires: fragmentation and privatization of the metropolitan city”. Gated communities and the privatization of utilities has lead to increasing inequalities in the metropolitan area. The quality of water, transit, power, and all other services are a reflection of residents’ wealth. Because all of these services are privatized, there are no clear guiding policies and service levels are determined by profitability. The city is developed by private entities to serve market demand for while the remaining areas are left to fend for themselves. The private development of the city is shaped by elite and powerful actors with no regard for the citizens those decisions impact.

 

This map was taken from Guy Thuiller's article Gated Communities in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires, Argentina: A Challenge for Town Planning (color added by Hector Rivas)
This map was taken from Guy Thuiller's article Gated Communities in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires, Argentina: A Challenge for Town Planning (color added by Hector Rivas)