A festival of the worst excesses of consumerism

The Iconsiam luxury shopping mall in Bangkok, which is both mind-bogglingly immense (like the Mall of America) and absurdly high-end (like the Stanford Shopping Center), so resembling South Coast Plaza in Orange County, except that it takes over-the-top golden glitziness to a level I don’t think has ever been attained in North America. This in a 3/16 Facebook report from my old friend Ry Schwark, who is being touristic in Bangkok and sending reports back to us. The Iconsiam complex, in the center of the city:

(#1) It all glows gold, as if the Man with the Golden Toilet had run amok along the Chao Phraya River (the two hotel towers are part of the complex)

Then two photos by Ry from the interior:

(#2) The Iconsiam logo, very modestly gold (well, it’s a consortium of investors, so not inclined to be showy)

(#3) One item of public art in the complex; Ry calls it Golden Bambi (now that is showy)

Comparative mall studies. About the three American counterparts I mentioned above, all of which I have visited — Stanford Shopping Center, an outdoor mall within walking distance of my house (though I’m no longer able to do the walk), and two big indoor malls that I’ve been able to experience thanks to gatherings with soc.motss friends: the Mall of America (which is just proletarianly immense) and South Coast Plaza (which, like the Stanford Shopping Center and Iconsiam, revels in pretentious luxury).

Stanford. From my 10/15/17 posting “Lilyturf, bronze pin heads, and ungrammatical yucca” (mostly about the plantings and the public art in the mall):

All on a recent trip to Stanford Shopping Center [driven there by a helper], where I hadn’t been for several years. After massive reconstruction, it’s even more upscale than before, with a huge range of very high-end stores with designer facades and interiors (the older buildings, like Macy’s, now look like commercial architecture from a previous age), plus, in the mall’s ad copy, “breathtaking gardens, sculptures and fountains” and places to sit everywhere — the last important to me as I cope with shortness of breath under exertion. The effect is of world-class shopping streets located in the middle of extraordinary public parks (though it’s all very much private property).

… The place is a monstrous monument to affluence, privilege, and pretension — thoroughly enjoyable if you approach it in those terms and can maintain your detachment about the experience, in which case it is both pleasurable and humorous.

Mall of America. The Wikipedia article notes that the mall, in Bloomington MN (on the outskirts of Minneapolis / St. Paul), is the largest in the western hemisphere and the 9th largest in the world. As I recall, it’s big enough to have its own weather.

South Coast Plaza. From Wikipedia, the bare facts:

South Coast Plaza is a regional shopping mall in Costa Mesa, California. … Its 275 retailers represent the highest concentration of design fashion retail in the U.S. … The mall is anchored by three Macy’s stores, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue. The South Coast Plaza is the largest shopping mall in California and the 4th largest in the United States.

Meanwhile, TripAdvisor gushes:

South Coast Plaza is a renowned international shopping destination and home to an unrivaled collection of … luxury and fashion boutiques, 30 restaurants and the adjacent celebrated Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Conveniently located in Orange County near world-famous beaches, Disneyland Resort and the John Wayne Airport

But then there’s Iconsiam. From the consortium’s About Us page (to go along with #2 above):

ICONSIAM is The Icon of Eternal Prosperity which presents the best of Thainess to the world. Bringing together a total investment of 55 billion baht, it is being developed by a powerful partnership among three of Thailand’s most successful and reputable businesses.

(Mostly, I just wanted to savor the word Thainess. Who can read that without thinking something like “Honored to meet you, Your Thainess”? And so, without calling up the images of Rex Harrison in the 1946 film Anna and the King of Siam and of Yul Brynner in the 1951 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I and the 1956 film version?)

From Wikipedia, considerably edited down by me:

Iconsiam, or ICONSIAM, is a mixed-use development on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand. It includes one of the largest shopping malls in Asia, which opened to the public on 9 November 2018, as well as hotels and residences. The ฿54 billion (US$1.5 billion) project is being developed as a joint venture by investors and developers. The complex includes the tallest and 5th tallest buildings in Thailand: the 70-floor Magnolia Waterfront Residences (300 units) and the 52-floor Mandarin Oriental Residences (146 units).

The current ICONSIAM complex includes:

— 5,650,000 sq ft of total retail floor space

— the first Siam Takashimaya department store in Thailand [Takashimaya is Tokyo’s luxury department store] and the first Apple Store in Thailand

— a 3,000-seat auditorium/exhibition hall

— the Iconsiam Heritage Museum (River Museum Bangkok)

— the two residential buildings

— a riverside park (with an area of more than 110,000 sq ft along the Chao Phraya River), including a riverside walkway

Reading ICONSIAM. On Facebook in response to Ry’s 3/16 posting:

AZ:  I keep reading ICONSIAM as ICONIASM, which calls up quite a different image. [now added: well, several images, picking up echos of iconoclasm, enthusiasm, sarcasm, orgasm, spasm, chasm, phantasm, ectoplasm, and protoplasm; I prefer to think of it as an orgasm triggered by the contemplation of an icon; bits of Young Frankenstein crowd my mind]

Ruth Bell > AZ:  I kept seeing ICONISM, which actually sorta made sense.

Rod Williams > AZ: Ry mentioned religions [AZ: specifically, the religion of consumerism], so I saw it as ICONISLAM.

Not quite sure what to do with Ruth’s ICONISM, but here’s OED2 on the noun iconism:

†a. A representation by some image or figure; imagery; metaphor. Obsolete. [cites from the 17th century only]

b. Semiotics. The quality or fact of being an icon or intentional sign. [just one cite:]

1971 Language … Among homotherms — that is, warm-blooded vertebrates, such as birds and mammals — iconism is less salient. Yet it seems to be present, at least latently, in the ‘intention movements’ exhibited .. by herring gulls who are about to take flight and who seem, by spreading their wings, not only to be preparing for flight themselves but also to be inviting neighboring gulls to fly with them.

To which I add NOAD on the noun icon:

1 a painting of Jesus Christ or another holy figure, typically in a traditional style on wood, venerated and used as an aid to devotion in the Byzantine and other Eastern Churches. 2 a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration: this iron-jawed icon of American manhood. [AZ: from which we get a common use of the adj. iconic] 3 Computing a symbol or graphic representation on a screen of a program, option, or window, especially one of several for selection. 4 Linguistics a sign whose form directly reflects the thing it signifies, for example, the word snarl pronounced in a snarling way. [AZ: the sense in the OED iconism quote from Language]


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