On Sunday night, as part of our tour along Orchard, my wife and I looked through Orchard Central. The lighted escalators on the end closer to Dhoby Ghaut Interchange kind drew us in. It had been quite a while since we’d gone in there. I visited it once right after it opened and my wife and I visited it together shortly after that. At the time I wasn’t too impressed, but I thought it might just be because the place had recently opened. It was more or less deserted of both people and stores. Most of the facades were still covered with ‘Coming Soon’ banners. In fact, it didn’t even have Wireless@SG set up inside at the time.
This time was a whole other story. The place was full of people. Almost ever retail space was open and ready for, if not doing, business. The best part of it all though was the look and feel of the mall. I’ve often said that there isn’t much, if anything, the US can learn from Singapore. Call it national pride. Call it arrogance. That’s just how I feel. However, one way I was wrong is in how Singapore is designing its new malls. I’ve often said before that Singapore does shopping right. The shopping experience has been refined into something close to an art form, especially when it comes to design and architecture. You only have to look at Ion, Orchard Central, and to some degree Vivocity to know that. More so with Orchard Central, since it draws the customer in and keeps them interested in staying, not through false sales or huge bins of promotions, but through a classy, well presented, fun to explore mall. And, as you walk through the mall you are of course presented with stores that you will wander into if the items for sale suit your taste. Malls in the US are bland by comparison and are a chore to go to, rather than an enjoyable experience.
Orchard Central seems like it was designed more for tourism than for actual sales. The place practically screams “Explore me!” The front of the building has escalators that cling to the face, so that as you go from the ground floor up to the top you have a clear view of the city around you. The view is stunning, to say the least, especially once you get yourself up onto the roof. The last time I went to Orchard Central, the top floors were still closed off. I managed to get some good shots of the city at the time, but it was nothing compared with the view I saw this time. To get onto the roof via the outside of the building you have to take a stairwell just down from where the last escalator leaves you. You can also reach the roof through the escalators and elevators inside.
The roof on Orchard Central wasn’t done as plainly and blandly as the roof on Tampines 1. I couldn’t see it too well because it was dark and poorly lit, but it has flagstones as paving for the majority of it, which makes for uneven footing but a more enjoyable experience. There are also small pools of water, vines, and a few lights mixed in. The railing around the edge is a glass wall with a metal frame that doesn’t inhibit the view of the surrounding area. You can see a LOT from up there, and the people down on the street seem very small. I haven’t been that high up in a building in a long time. It made me miss New York City.
On our way back down through the building we noticed that different areas seem to have different themes. Various architectural tricks were used like having a ramped area with stores that are offset from the normal floor level to draw attention to them. There is also a giant wall inside that you can climb. I noted it last time but this time it seems functional, if unused.
I think we wandered through Orchard Central for more than an hour without seeing everything. We eventually had to head back down so we could get back to viewing the lights on Orchard Road. As we were heading down though we noticed that there are basement levels and took a quick detour to check them out. The first basement is pretty bland. It’s probably the most boring part of the mall. The stores are small and didn’t seem too interesting. There is a Mos Burger down there though, and another place right next to it. I think it was a Subway but I can’t remember for sure. The second basement level was really cool though. We couldn’t actually get down to it yet because it was still under construction but we were able to lean over the rail and peer around a bit. It looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun! The floor was done in tiled designs, there were false, old fashioned building fronts, wooden frames for stalls, and the whole thing seemed to be designed to resemble an outdoor town that you might have seen in old Mexico. If you’ve ever passed by the front of Orchard and noticed the flower pots and wondered why they don’t match the interior, this is why. They’ll match the second basement level.
I’m looking forward to going back to Orchard Central again, just to window shop and hang out. I want to see the view from the roof during the day. I also want to take some more time to look through the stores and find the good cafes and sitting areas. I hear the restaurant up towards the top called The Loft has some good food and a good view. Oh, and speaking of restaurants, the roof will sport some restaurants eventually too, but for now they’re under construction.