In a city where you are not permitted to walk on the grass in public parks, and where shopping is the leading pastime, it makes sense that one may commune with nature through a shopping mall. At the base of the 118-storey ICC, and directly above the Kowloon MTR station, rests Elements shopping mall and entertainment complex, built to serve the developing district of West Kowloon and beyond. The mall opened last October, and prospects looked good, with institutions such as Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank set to open in the ICC, bringing an influx of banking residents and their ready dollars. But one year on, there is serious uncertainty in the sector, although a cautious sense of optimism pervades. The W Hong Kong in The Cullinan is now open; and The Ritz-Carlton will occupy the top 15 floors of the ICC when it is completed in 2010. So how have Elements mall and its parent company, the MTR Corporation, managed during the first year of operation, and what lies in store for the conceptual property dubbed the 'green shopping experience'? Understanding Elements and its place in the complicated Hong Kong shopping mall landscape is not easy. It boasts a 40,000 sqft skylight and 700,000sqft of landscaped garden. It houses about 125 shops, a skating rink, and the city's largest cinema, with 1,600 seats. The mall is a favourite of many who have been there - 'comfortable', 'stylish', and 'it feels good' were comments made by shoppers on a recent weekend - but the 1million sqft of shopping, dining and entertainment space can be difficult to navigate. The shopping mall is themed around the five Chinese elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Each element dominates a nature-themed zone in what world-renowned designer Benoy calls the 'experiential destination' of Elements, inspired by its waterfront location. The zones represent luxury (metal), dining (water), entertainment (fire), fashion (earth) and health and wellbeing (wood). Elements is primarily about shopping, but entertainment and public space are major influences. Public art takes pride of place in each zone, working into each architectural theme inspired by the elements. The space is anchored by the cinema, the ice-skating rink and a supermarket. The Grand cinema has the largest number of screens in Hong Kong, featuring 12 theatres with a total seating capacity of 1,600. It also boasts an infrasonic system that allows moviegoers to see, hear and feel the movie, with specially designed 'shaking' chairs. The Rink uses the automated Octopus system for a 'pay as you skate' arrangement, the first in town, and it has a magnificent 180-degree view of Victoria Harbour. Then there is a ThreeSixty supermarket, Hong Kong's largest organic and natural food store. The MTR Corporation has relied on interesting design, attention to detail (parking on the same floor that you're visiting, for example) and a stellar selection of shops. Brands not available elsewhere in Hong Kong can be found at Elements. Karen Millen, Luella and Pringle of Scotland are first-time tenants in Hong Kong, and established brands such as Mulberry are opening flagship outlets here. Another first in Hong Kong is Elements' Men's Street, offering everything from coffee to cigars with brands such as Dunhill and Pacific Cigar. Men waiting for their companions can also relax in a lounge area with magazine racks. Amenities in the washrooms such as electric shavers for men and cosmetics for women are also provided. Hongkongers don't mind a bit of luxury shopping in a beautiful environment. But it will take more than top brands and attractive water features to draw them in this economic climate, especially as retailers enter the bumper holiday season. Repeated requests to the MTR Corporation and Elements communications teams yielded little information about upcoming events, new shop openings or holiday plans for the mall, skating rink or beautiful outdoor areas on the rooftop. An Elements first anniversary promotional campaign is in place, where shoppers can collect receipts from October 1 to November, 2008. From November 8-16, the list of top spenders will be offered a selection of Elements Birthday Gifts. And HSBC Platinum or Premier cardholders can enjoy 1,000 air miles upon spending HK$2,000 at Elements. But the MTR Corporation said its strategy remained 'build it and they will come'. 'Elements welcomes the West Kowloon Cultural District Development as it promises even more exciting dimensions to the already established cultural positioning and artistic life and style of Elements,' said Teresa Pun, PR for the MTR Corporation. 'From a commercial perspective, the West Kowloon Cultural District Development will undoubtedly ... widen the spectrum of visitors going to Elements and using Elements as a communication or transport hub,' she added.