Naturalisation of the “modern, civilised” interventions to the detriment of the memory of the place

As regards the promise of building the future shopping centre in the Hidromecanica area from the Civic Centre of the city, another aspect to which the inhabitants of Brasov relate in conflicting ways is its location. Discussions with a 22-year-old man revealed that he is in favour to the construction of the shopping centre hoping that this will generate new jobs and attract the tourists, but he is against its location in the centre of the city, anticipating the related traffic problems. The young man supports the construction of modern shopping centres, but he prefers them to be located on the city outskirts, as in the Western countries, so as to avoid traffic congestion. Nevertheless, the same young man leaves these traffic problems to be handled by the local authorities, excluding the possibility to influence by himself their decisions and “waiting to see what they will do about it”. But there are also elderly persons who believe that the shopping centre is a “must”, especially because, through its central location, it would shorten their walks to the shops, which is quite difficult for them, and would thereby benefit from “modern, civilised” shopping facilities.

Walking through the neighbourhood with another young man, who is also 22-years-old, we find out that the future central location of the shopping centre is considered “highly useful”. Even if the memory of the place is still there, the young man points out that the shopping centre is built on a land plot where a former factory used to carry out its activity. The practical reasons are much stronger and seem to legitimise this intervention into the urban network (“rather than leave it in ruin, it is better to build something useful”). This discourse has become so strong that it does not leave room for other possibilities of valorisation of the former industrial spaces, consumer services standing out as the best option, even if to the detriment of other public facilities. For this neighbourhood inhabitant, getting familiar with the idea of having the central area of the city occupied with a modern shopping centre is possible by taking into consideration only those service options already available in the neighbourhood (a hospital or a church were other possible options but they already exist in the area).

Therefore, three attitudes can be observed: for certain, more mobile younger persons, who have their own car or live or work in the new residential areas at the city periphery, building a shopping centre in the central city area is associated with traffic congestion; for certain elderly persons who are less mobile, who walk a lot or use public means of transport and live in the centre of the city or in the older areas near the city centre, the central location of the shopping mall becomes desirable. For those who are dissatisfied with the desolating appearance of the abandoned factories in the new city centre, shopping centres become the best option to value land plots out of use for quite a while. Regardless of the differences in their opinions, the three attitudes testify the acceptance of this transformation, which stands out as something “necessary”, but which comes from the outside and is impossible to influence by the citizens that cannot imagine a different possibility. Representatives of both generations take for granted the necessity to create modern shopping centres, the importance given to consumption becoming part of the transition towards “normality”.

“A shopping centre is built on the left hand side, I think it will be named AFI Palace or simply AFI. I think it’s a good idea, a good initiative, as for a very long time this land has never used, it has never been used for any purpose. As far as I know, there used to be a factory here, but rather than leave it in ruin, I think they should build something useful, methinks... I don’t know what they could have built instead of this shopping centre: not necessarily a hospital, because we already have a hospital nearby, namely Sfântul Constantin hospital; a church even less – a church needs a rather small space and anyway there is already a church here. So, a shopping centre is probably very welcome.”