I wasn't around Wakefield in 1983 when The Ridings opened, but in doing this project I have come across a few photos and videos on-line showing the shopping centre in its heyday. I moved to Wakefield in 1999 after a few years on the North York Moors, 40 Miles from the nearest bustling arcades of York, so to have a shopping centre within walking distance was a novelty for me indeed. Helen my partner used to smile when I got confused with the multiple layers of The Ridings. I had been 'smiling' at her before hand in the brief time she had spent in Milton Keynes where we first met. I grew up in Bletchley near MK and was used to the miles of Milton Keynes Shopping Centre strip malls and could navigate my way around there without getting that lost or walking the wrong way which always seemed to happen to new-comers to the city.
When The Ridings opened it was a shining, mock Victorian arcade with bright lights and gardens with water features. Over the past 30 years things have been streamlined both through desire and through necessity. There are remnants from the original interior design. Flooring materials, structural pillars and physical layers are still there, although generally today it's looks a lot more neutral. This fits with modern ways of design thinking and kind of what I mean by the term iDevice design. The eighties was a design decade, but also a decade of decadence. Thatcherism, yuppies and showing off were the cultural ways of the day. Expensive shirt logos, boy racers, neat and magnificent hair, shoulder pads making the wearer seem bigger and more important.
Thank heavens that decade has passed.