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What Do You Think of the Look of PF Chang’s?

Posted by whforums on November 24, 2008

You’ll have to forgive my photo quality — I snapped it with an iPhone as my car was rolling by:

PF Chang's, West Hartford

I get that art threatens capitalism, so that when capitalism tries to do art, it can only do kitsch.  Like, Las Vegas exists, and that’s fine.  But this to me seems more like “branding on acid” than anything.   For god’s sake, people, you can make the giant horse as giant or ungiant as you want, and you can remake the exterior of your portion of the mall with height and”rich earth tones,” but none of this is going to change the fact that you’re in a mall. And, to be blunt, if I’ve chosen to spend time at this mall, why would I want to forget that in the first place?

Architecture without politics is vapid, but this is architecture in the service of the faux politics of the consumer, which is insipid …

Set to open December, 2008.  And don’t get me wrong, I’ll be there that month, and I’m sure the food will be good. And I think it’s a welcome boutique chain in West Hartford’s “boutique chain scene.”  But just like The Cheesecake Factory (and in opposition to Crate and Barrel), this place just looks like it’s trying too hard, doesn’t it?

6 Responses to “What Do You Think of the Look of PF Chang’s?”

  1. Greg said

    You nailed it. The current trend of turning all the shopping malls inside out so that their gaudy fake architecture is inescapable is beyond annoying. At Disney World, the fake architecture is awesome. At home, it’s stupid.

    And why? I mean, at least when I go xmas shopping at West Farms, I can leave my coat in the car and be comfortable as I do my consumer-zombie shuffle. If I were to do a big shopping excursion at Evergreen Walk or Blue Back or the one in Canton (whose name eludes me), I get to be cold and uncomfortable in between pushing my way through the crowded stores. All to the greater glory of the faux-community setting that’s supposed to create an illusion that the American Main Street isn’t dead and gone? I’m feeling like a complete Andy Rooney knock off as I type this, but there you have it. Damn.

    On one hand, I don’t blame West Farms for trying to redecorate from the outside in that much — the indoor shopping mall became oh-so-gauche, and it only took a couple of years for it to happen. I imagine they feel like they have to do something to remain timely and competitive, although their parking lots haven’t seemed any less crowded to me this past year.

    And yeah, I’ll probably be at PF Chang’s not too long after it opens, too. Sigh.

  2. Heather B said

    I’ve been thinking about writing up a post about the “outdoor mall” and how popular it’s become as a design characteristic in our area. Contrasting with the Hartford neighborhood where I live is amusing – it’s also walkable and has a variety of stores and restaurants, but is not exactly a destination like the area malls. The mishmash of store types, building styles and cheap signage resulting from wacky and patchwork zoning (I can only assume) is ugly, and worse, confusing. What’s worse?

    The Canton outdoor mall is called the Shoppes at Farmington Valley.


    These malls still retain a lot of the sanitized control that malls tend to have. And my sense is people tend to like it that way. It’s “easier to read.” Agreed the architecture is lame and fails to fool us as to what kind of development this is. Very sterile.

  3. sujal said

    just one thing: BBS isn’t, at least to me, about recreating “main street” We had that already with the Town Center. To me it’s about bringing the city shopping experience (which I happen to like) to the center. In a town like Boston, where I lived for 7 or so years, i could step outside and walk to one place that had a theater, great restaurants and a nice set of stores right there. I could also just sit at an outdoor table and watch the world go by. While BBS isn’t going to be a Christmas one-stop-shop like the mall, it’s a great place to just wander and hang out.

  4. I think the exterior is there solely to discombobulate diners from realizing that all they’re eating is salt when they savor the “cuisine” dreck chains like P.F. Chang’s offer. Really not a great place for food, yet it remains incredibly popular. I guess it can be added to the list of restaurants on the “Olive Garden List:” Mediocre faux-authentic food that shoppers, blitzed by the mall, can’t get enough of, for whatever reason.

  5. pdgoselin said

    I agree with the comments about these “outside shopping malls” as attempts at faux Main Street – or maybe in some instances faux SoHo. I think the aspect that has not yet been discussed is social control. When young people – especially “those” young people whose skin color, language, style of dress, etc. suggest that they are not a part of “our” town – congregate in a mall there is a kind of paradox for the shop owners. They want consumers, but only on their own terms, which is they come, they spend money, and they go. They don’t want their consumers hanging out there, especially if there is a perception that some consumers are scaring off others, are more likely to engage in shoplifting, are too noisy, etc. So the store owners/mall owners have to invest in private security forces to police their malls because they are closed, private structures. Faux streets help to resolve the problem by creating a space that is private enough to totally control the consumer experience but public enough to put the responsibility for maintaining that control on the cops. So as long as you are a good, money-spending consumer you are welcome . . . and when the money runs out, you can move along and don’t let me catch you hanging around here.

  6. Kent said

    It’s all about advertising, people. We are still living in America, where making a buck is done by setting yourself apart from the masses. There’s nothing wrong with a firm like P.F. Changs moving into the WF Mall, so long as the customers beat a trail to its doors. When its profit margins shrink from consumer apathy, it will close and something else will replace it. The exotic (gaudy) exterior is part of the marketing mix: Product (so-so at best), Place (high-traffic mall), Price (much cheaper than eating at TRUE fine dining restaurants), and PROMOTION. If you don’t toot your own horn, you don’t win in this competetive world. If you are all about art and conformity, then go to the WH Center. If you are about the American Way, then P.F. Chang’s and Red Robin (across the street) and Best Buy are firms that have found out how to earn a buck, and that’s what America is all about. (I can’t wait to read the rants my opinions raise.)

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