Dear Westfield Sydney

I write you this letter, sitting on a leather couch on the fourth floor. My feet are aching, my brain is hurting, and my mind has given up. Let me explain.

It’s currently 6pm in the evening on a Thursday. People are generally tired, and catching a quick spot of shopping before heading home and preparing for one day of work before the weekend break.

Sadly, the design of your mall is such that places for mid-mall seating are as sparse as any glimpse of daylight whilst walking around trying to find a store. The fact mid mall seating locations are only located off the main escalator shaft means you’ll have to keep walking back to a central point, restarting your journey each time.

But, as in life things don’t repeat themselves in a constant manner. So while you might think a seat will be in the same spot – it won’t. You’ll have to locate where it is on each floor and re-work your disorientated brain to map a route that keeps you as near to a chair as possible.

Granted, these chairs and couches are comfy, and being able to take a seat whilst writing a complaint to you on free wifi does have its perks.

But this is not the most annoying part of the mall experience you have developed at Pitt St.

Going from floor to floor up the main escalator bank, you have chosen to wrap the walls between each floor with massive white lights that are a meter high. Worse still, their intensity is turned up to 11; blinding you as you ascend and descend from floor to floor.

And sadly there is no point trying to be a smart cookie and avoid them by using the lifts, as these are located off corridors in the most hard to find places, with way finding signs that are well out of the eyeline; and symbols that are too closely stacked together for those with poor eyesight to distinguish. Yet strangely, the exit signs are at a decent height as per the Building Code of Australia. Why the height queues couldn’t be taken from that boggles belief.

And let’s talk some more about way finding around the centre shall we. Much like our aforementioned seats, they are spread at random locations and are often hard to find. The are also digital, and while they provide good directional help no provision was made in their design to provide paper maps as an additional assistive tool.

And due to the dark lighting on the upper floors, you have to distinguish where they are by shape. They are also positioned side on to the mall, and with no information symbols on the short sides, it’s hard to know what they are until you’re right on top of the unit.

The only redeeming feature of this new mall and design language is your Level 5 Food Court. Multiple seating options to suit all group sizes, large tables which make it easy to share a meal, and a broad spectrum of options to cover every cuisine at good price points. I also applaud the emphasis on fresh food created in front of the customers eyes, and encouraging all stores to put as much of the process on display. Din Tai Fung is one of the great examples of this.

The range of dessert and sweet options is to be applauded. Becasse is a stand out, as well as Villa Di Novo, offering a range of dessert options to cover every price point and taste desire. This could easily be described as destination dining for the masses.

So yes, while you spent several hundreds of millions of dollars creating this retail experience – the letdown is that the money didn’t buy an experience beyond the manufactured nightmares casinos are built on. If Sydney embodies the future of retail malls, then I for one will run for the hills.

No love,

Me.