It is said that architecture can transform people, bring joy to our souls, make us feel lifted, and cared for. But it can also bring sadness, anxiety and even terror. And when you think about it, every two bricks put together, every wall around us, every window is architecture. Good or bad, beautiful, or ugly, we live with it, day after day and it’s probably the first thing in the morning that is setting our mood, just after we open our eyes or when we arrive at school or work.

John Cary, in his TED discourse about “How Architecture can create dignity for all”, spoke about the importance of architecture, no matter the level of infrastructure or richness. He said that any big or small construction and design should count, for everybody, poor or wealthy, small or old.

And I agree with him; saying that we must start to give importance to every kind of space that surrounds us, by creating more awareness because this is our chance to better the world we live in. All the people in the world, no exception, need to be seen, valued and respected.

In this essay, I will talk about two buildings, two different places that created two opposite feelings for me. Let me start with the positive one since I want to set a good mood and I promise to conclude on a good note so that you don’t lose this feeling. 


Afi Mall, Brasov,  Romania is a relatively new construction finished in 2020 and designed under the signature of Moshe Tzur Architecture Studio from Tel Aviv. Every time I think back on my trip to Romania from last summer, and every time people ask me how it was, I don’t hesitate to tell everyone about the impression that AFI Mall left on me. I visited it three times, for three days in a row.

I don’t consider myself to be a person that has a busy life outside of the house, a part of the reason is that I use a lot of time to study, and the other part is justified by the pandemic situation which disabled me to visit places around here. Those facts permitted me to consider AFI Mall as one of my most frequented places even though it is not that close. Brasov is the city where I was born, and which I am very proud of. It definitely has its memorable charm given by a mixture of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture and that makes it one of the most visited cities in the country. But this mall is really something else. With a new contemporan approach, its architectural composition is complemented by the acute care for the context in which it is integrated. Like in Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, the modern and organic are in a symbiotic relationship. The connection of this project with the city, with the entire natural or built environment that surrounds it, is done with respect and subtlety. Forms of nature are implemented in the Afi mall. The tubular metal structure holding up the ceiling consisting of straight and curved tubes, is a branch network of trees with the trunks rising up from the hearts of the restaurants on the second floor. Triangular and square patterns are all over the ceiling and a lot of them are opened as windows towards the sky. Quiet rivers surrounded by plants run through the line of tables where visitors dine and chat with friends. 

Outside the resto area, at the back of the mall can be found a large terrace with a lot of green space, benches and tables. It is big enough for occasional outdoor movies and has a playground for the kids that is placed near the parents. And I cannot forget to mention the fact that this terrace, like a giant backyard, is at the foot of Timpa Mountain Peak. You had to be there to feel it. You would feel lucky not only as a resident of the city but also as a tourist. 

It is also used for multiple exhibitions with seasonal characters. When I visited, the dinosaur and dragon exhibition was on display, which made the shopping mall look a lot like the Avatar Movie. 

The shopping area is generous, elegant, with interior windows as high as 6 meters high, a single panel weighing approximately 350 kg. There are shops for all budgets. Regardless of this fact, they are all treated with great importance. I felt extraordinary to be able to enter these stores with such elegant interiors and to notice that the products have low prices, and that I, like many other ordinary people, were happy to be able to buy them.

And last but not the least, the last floor is reserved for the cinema, which I will not describe since I had no time to visit it. Hopefully next year. 🙂


This is how I thought a shopping mall should look like. From the moment I took my first steps in, the grandiosity of the place combined with the beauty, the utility and the welcoming, natural atmosphere made me feel like I worthed, like somebody there designed this place thinking of me and of all my friends that joined my mom and me on those beautiful days. I think the architects of this center knew how to do their job and didn’t disappoint. Just by looking in any direction, you can see that everything is calculated and is there to serve a specific purpose. 

I think this space can serve as a model that should definitely be recreated, and it is a nice place for architects to look at before starting a mall project.

I will take less time to talk about Walmart, which as anyone can guess, is the bad example of this story.

I will probably not have the same flow in my words since only thinking of it creates anxiety within me.  An insult to architecture? Well, let’s see. It’s my opinion, of course, and I hope it’s not too much for a professional architecture critic at the beginning of her career. 🙂 But, I can certainly name a few things I was flabbergasted with.

I had to enter Walmart a few times and every time I got the feeling that I am trapped within those walls with no windows. I almost feel like a hamster being part of an experiment, and all I want to do is collapse and cry. “Mom, can we get out now?!”. On top of not having windows, the lights are blinding, making me feel as if I just woke up from an operation. Probably because of the era of “zero waste”, the architects thought to make use of all the space and forgot about the natural light…hmm. We have a few more mega stores around us, like Provigo, Metro, and even Super C, so we know that using natural light can be done.

I also feel that all the items from the store create chaos that weighs tons, not giving space for the customer to breathe and to feel comfortable. There are so many vivid colors, all in one place with no regularity in the shapes of the signs. The shelf with the corn is one meter away from the shelf with the tee shirts. The metallic shelves make it look more like a thrift store; like the hat of a magician where you put your hand inside, not knowing what you will take out. This leaves a cheap impression, making me not want to buy anything for fear of losing my dignity.

I don’t want to compare it with AFI Mall, I perfectly understand that it is another kind of store, a megastore from a neighborhood that serves the purpose of finding thousands of things in one place, quickly, on the hand. But, even so, some dignity can be demanded. 


 All stores, if properly built, can give customers a sense of coziness, and pleasure while shopping down the aisles. Some of them succeeded in having a characteristic personality. Take IGA for example. But Walmart has none of that. The way it’s built and the message it seems to send rushes the people to rapidly buy the stuff they need and then get out of there, without taking the time to look too much left and right, leaving them voiceless and invisible. Overall, I don’t think the ideology behind this construction is very clever, and I think many adjustments should be made in order to consider respect for human beings.