What Exactly Makes A Pop-Up Mall A Pop-Up Mall? On Second Thought, Who Cares?

from the ownership-culture-gone-mad dept

One of the pernicious effects of once-obscure legal issues surrounding copyright and patents seeping into everyday life is the belief that even the vaguest ideas can be owned, and that such ownership is a thing worth fighting over. Here, for example, is a sorry tale from Christchurch in New Zealand, which suffered a massive earthquake in which 181 people died back in February of this year:
The City Mall Restart project is being threatened with legal action after being accused of copying a "pop-up mall" in London.

Director of the London Boxpark development Roger Wade emailed City Mall Restart organisers accusing them of a "blatant breach of the Boxpark intellectual property rights".

"Boxpark has now instructed legal action against the owners of City Mall Pop Up Mall for intellectual property rights infringement," he said.

But City Mall organisers have hit back, claiming Boxpark was being "precious" and there were no similarities between the projects.

The threat could not have come at worse time for Christchurch organisers, with City Mall scheduled to reopen on Saturday, marking the first return of retail to central Christchurch since the February 22 earthquake.
And if, like me, you're wondering what exactly a "pop-up mall" might be does it leap out of the earth as you approach, perhaps? - here's the basic idea:
The temporary shopping centre has been described as a "pop-up mall" made out of 60 shipping containers converted into 27 shops, including two cafes
> But the people behind the New Zealand pop-up mall claim there are key differences between this and the London pop-up mall:
However, he denied similarities between the projects, with the City Mall development divided into two horseshoe precincts while Boxpark was essentially a giant box with a cafe on the top.

"It will be very hard to say it's a copy because it doesn't look anything like Boxpark. The only thing that aligns these things together is they both use containers."
So the deep philosophical questions come down to these. Wherein lies the Platonic essence of a pop-up mall? Is the use of containers enough to generate the mall's pop-upness, or is their arrangement important too? And finally, and perhaps most importantly, is a world in which a city devastated by an earthquake has to worry about such things still sane in any meaningful sense?

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2011 @ 3:26pm

    From my submission on the subject (slightly amended):

    ... exact details of any legal action aren't yet known, other than Boxpark claiming a "blatant breach of the Boxpark intellectual property rights". It might be possible that there is a particular detail (a mechanical connection, perhaps?) but BoxPark haven't supplied specifics, which I would have thought they would were it something of this nature.

    There are only a limited number of ways that you can stack a number of standardised steel boxes with doors on both ends.

    A review of BoxPark's website shows it contains more legal disclaimers than actual content; and judging by their inability to show any actual (rather than rendered) images of their design which is already months late, now due to open in December I suspect that they have been unable to get enough interest in their project and are now getting very desperate.

    The content on their website is the usual marketing feelgood fuzzy jargon that might be included in an architect's manifesto (yes some architects still have these, and I bet the designers of Boxpark do, too). In short, it is almost all, total bullshit. I suspect that the more savvy retailers are going to require more objective data before commiting to a project like this, and Boxpark don't seem to be able to indicate if they have any, or enough partners, to proceed.

    If you look around the large pdf describing the project you can't help but feel depressed since it is very monochrome, and Shoreditch doesn't seem to be the most scintillating of environments. My god, it is depressing.

    But you can't miss the legal disclaimers and also the ACID logo liberally plastered around the site and the brochure.

    ACID (Anti Copying In Design) seems to be a worthwhile organisation http://acid.eu.com/ but I wonder what their reaction to this situation would be.

    I know that container malls of themselves are unlikely to be anything new or innovative some years ago I had some clothing made by Mercy, a woman whose family lived and worked and sold their work just outside of Accra (Ghana). From a small complex of containers. Maybe Mercy is missing out on an opportunity here.

    And I'm Shoreditch residents are unlikely to consider a mall in Christchurch a viable alternative to one on their front doorstep if their mall ever gets built.

    Also, full credit to the organisers of the Christchurch mall, who got the project up and running and completed in an amazingly short time. Some of the best architectural results happen when significant constraints are placed on the project, and I'm sure that is why the Christchurch project - constrained by time and costs - will be successful while the Shoreditch project drifts on.

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