Victor Gruen was the designer of the first modern enclosed shopping mall, Southdale, outside Minneapolis (the original news release can be found here). Malcolm Gladwell has profiled the architect and his impact on North American consumer culture in the most recent New Yorker.
Fifty years ago, Victor Gruen designed a fully enclosed, introverted, multitiered, double-anchor-tenant shopping complex with a garden court under a skylightand today virtually every regional shopping center in America is a fully enclosed, introverted, multitiered, double-anchor-tenant complex with a garden court under a skylight. Victor Gruen didnt design a building; he designed an archetype.
I know I've been a little mall-centric this week. The places just fascinate me - espcially since I live a stereotypical suburban life, and must recount my weekend activities by listing my visits to the stores, theatres and services only found in nearby malls.
... well-run department stores are the engines of malls. They have powerful brand names, advertise heavily, and carry extensive cosmetics lines (shopping malls are, at bottom, delivery systems for lipstick)all of which generate enormous shopping traffic. The point of a mallthe reason so many stores are clustered together in one buildingis to allow smaller, less powerful retailers to share in that traffic. A shopping center is an exercise in coöperative capitalism. It is considered successful (and the mall owner makes the most money) when the maximum number of department-store customers are lured into the mall.