SM Megamall

Topics: Shopping mall, SM Prime Holdings, SM City North EDSA Pages: 10 (3080 words) Published: February 28, 2014
Art Studies 2: Art Around Us | AY 2013-2014 | 1st Semester | Prof. Roberto G. Paulino



SM Megamall: Semiotics, Proxemics and Phenomenon1
Ma. Cecilia Tuble
No matter what happens in the world of human beings, it happens in a spatial setting, and the design of that setting has a deep and persistent influence on the people in that setting. – Edward T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension

Traditionally, architecture was viewed as a passive expression of a culture or society’s beliefs, experiences and aspirations; as monuments of the Zeitgeist spirit of the age; or testament to a particular artist/architect’s vision or genius. There is, however, a growing awareness of how architecture, particularly its space, signifies, organizes, and determines social structures and relations. This alternative view is called Proxemics, which the anthropologist Edward T. Hall defines as “the interrelated observation and theories of man’s use of space as a specialized elaboration of culture.”

In this paper, SM Megamall is studied, not so much in its formal or stylistic aspects, but in its semiotic and proxemic aspects. Emphasis is placed on space, following Hall’s assertion that “spatial experience is not just visual, but multisensory.” Furthermore, the building will also be studied as a phenomenon, in context of its larger sociohistorical setting. A. SEMIOTICS:

SM Megamall solves the problems in interior lay-out and in maximum use of space encountered in the earlier SM City (North Edsa). Megamall (opened June 28, 1990) is a long, enormous six-level structure pierced at the ground level by an auxiliary road. SM City also has a large area space, but it is composed of three separate buildings: the Main, the Carpark and the Annex. The Megamall, however, has greater visual impact because its two Buildings A and B are built in one long line and are actually connected in 5 of its 6 levels. Outside, the 5 two buildings look like one big block because of the streamlined design that unifies them, emphasizing the sheer horizontality of the architecture.

Inside, the longitudinal plan maximizes space. With shops lined on both sides of long and narrow balustrated corridors, it gives the impression of a six-level “court” that looks out to the artificial trees and wroughtiron tables and chairs in the ground level aptly named Gardens. Each building is illuminated by a long skylight that nearly spans its entire length.

Lighting is one important factor which enhances spatial experience and helps create different moods. The sunnilylit corridors signify a more open, warm and relaxed atmosphere than the artificially lighted SM Department Store. In the same way, the dimness caused, by soft, muted lighting in several small shops and restaurants has a different effect (coziness, quiet elegance) from the dimness one finds in the lower ground level which is lighted by sleek orange and red neon bulbs.

Probably the best example of how space and lighting create the right ambiance is the Silverscreen level (Bldg. A). This level has 12 cinemas in 2 groups of 6. From the warmly lit corridor one enters a smaller corridor, dimly lit by round clusters of tiny amber lights, has a dual function: it serves as a transition area that accustoms the eyes from the larger, brightly lit corridor outside, to the darkness of the cinema inside (and vice versa); at the same time, it psychologically prepares the moviegoer for the act of seeing a film. It is a “rite of passage” – in the literal sense – in the ritual of film-watching: from light to dimness to darkness, then from darkness to dimness to light once again.


Ma. Cecilia Tuble, “SM Megamall: Semiotics, Proxemics and Phenomenon,” Arkitekturang Filipino: Spaces & Places in History, CDROM (Manila: Pambansang Komisyon para sa Kultura at mga Sining, 2002).

Art Studies 2: Art Around Us | AY 2013-2014 | 1st Semester | Prof. Roberto G. Paulino


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