By Adelaida Jaramillo
Years ago, while driving by the building site of the Plaza Lagos Town Center, I wondered what exactly was being built, whether a mall, an office park or a condominium. It turned to be all three. Moreover, it embodies a new concept in city planning that is quite admirable, a place where a broad variety of options were designed to provide an excellent lifestyle to residents and visitors.
Its many palm trees and spectacular illumination make this area a city landmark. “It´s an oasis within the city,” says Paul Salomon, an American from New York City who feels Plaza Lagos is the ideal place to entertain his friends who fly to Guayaquil to visit him.
The first stage of the mall, dubbed El Jardín (the garden), is my personal favorite. My first time there was to attend an event for a new book held in a bookstore / coffee shop. This place, besides its natural wide selection of current books, has a menu that book readers love because the choices are named after famous writers. The ecuadorean and foreign writers who I have invited to this place have just loved it.
In El Jardín you can also find an interior design store, a fantastic bakery and a wonderful winery, warm and very well stocked. Outside, plenty of comfortable seating areas to rest, eat an ice cream or just enjoy Guayaquil´s balmy weather, while children run around on the grass. Naturally, Plaza Lagos offers wifi access to all external areas.
The mall´s second stage is El Malecón (the boardwalk). It is a great place to eat, whether your taste is Mexican, Italian, Spanish or fusion. At night, several restaurants´ live music enhances the dining experience. Bars invite patrons to enjoy drinks with old and new friends. At dusk, all the water fountains are illuminated and a feeling of peace and calm flows from the lake that borders El Malecón. This area also houses fashion designers. This enables Plaza Lagos to host a yearly fashion week. The Designer’s Book seeks to develop sustainable fashions in Ecuador and to showcase new talent.
Another place I love is the cultural center. Every week has a packed calendar of events, from paintings to photography to workshops on classic as well as contemporary art, always accessible, challenging and dynamic. More than once, local artists have taken advantage of this atmosphere to take over spaces outside the cultural center and break the status quo, at least for a short while. Sometimes, children are invited to learn to paint in the style of Jackson Pollock, other times artists paint on the walls and the arches of the Plaza Lagos buildings.
The third and last stage is known as La Isla (the island). It is more of a family oriented space. Ideal for children, not only thanks to all sorts of desserts and candies, but because all the shops provide activities for the children while their parents shop.
Tourists come to Plaza Lagos for its cuisine, its fashion events and its cultural activities. However, beyond that, according to Jaime Izurieta-Varea there is also something he calls “architectural tourism”. To explain this idea Izurieta says that, “It´s a very interesting trend due to the fact that urban planning in Plaza Lagos incorporated a broad variety of participants.” The design included not only the latest ideas on how to improve people´s lifestyles but also into account community opinions in the final design.
Plaza Lagos is a place that engenders feelings of wellbeing and safety to all visitors, encouraging them to wander, to taste, to feel everything this space has to offer. For “guayaquileños” as well as outsiders, Plaza Lagos has earned the right to be called the hot spot in town.