Negotiating identity – An excursion into the world of a business city

By Anna-Maria Murtola

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“What Newtown actually is, is an interesting issue to consider. It is a new kind of retail-concept – a crossbreed between a shopping centre, an exhibition centre, and a travelling destination providing the visitor with an experience. It has also been presented as a green business city, the idea of which can be seen as an alternative to the much talked about overpower of the hypermarkets and shopping centres. The idea of Newtown has furthermore been presented as resembling a real city. A point has been made very determinedly of distinguishing Newtown from traditional shopping centres – the key PR-folder begins with the very words Newtown is far from any traditional shopping centres. In reference to Newtown the concept experience centre has also been brought forward as a contrast to traditional shopping paradises. (…)
Though a city can be many things, it is usually defined somewhere along the lines of size, population, culture and commerce, as in being a center of population, commerce, and culture; a town of significant size and importance. Newtown is certainly a centre of commerce, and it might even be thought of as some kind of a centre for culture, but it does not take a genius to figure out that Newtown actually lacks one very important aspect of urbanity – the residents of the city. At daytime it certainly crawls with life, but at night-time it is a desolate place. This does not, however, prevent the entrepreneurs of Newtown from talking about a population of Newtown. The inhabitants of the city, as alluded to in one of the PR-brochures, lack the permanence of inhabitants of a traditional city. The concept is nevertheless used.
In creating Newtown the city has been used as a guiding light. Newtown could actually be said to have been created in the image of a town or a city. As the architect of the project explains, a town must have a wall, a tower and be built around a town square. In Newtown these correspond to the semi-circular outer wall of the building, the planned -storey hotel to be incorporated into the building, and the central park (or central square) at the heart of it. At the heart of Newtown the Old Town can be found, which is where craftspeople of traditional arts have their small work/shops and where market activities take place in traditional style. This is also from where the city can be thought to have expanded.”

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