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tv   Alexandra Lange Meet Me by the Fountain  CSPAN  February 24, 2023 5:53am-6:54am EST

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i also want to welcome alexandra lange alexandra lange to meet me by the fountain. for me is the book that i will remember 2022 with scott some book festival by every year there's one and ever since alexander's said yes, five months ago i've been talking about this book, talking to people about the history of them all. as much as i possibly could. and here it is today. i'm so delighted. who has been to the mall before?
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i know there are some people who haven't been to the mall. fantastic. the mall, as someone who was born in 1980, was the center of culture for me. growing up in oconomowoc, wisconsin, and we didn't have one. you had to go to brookfield. i think that i'm not alone when i talk about how important the mall was to me in certain group of formative years, and i am delighted to see people of all ages here so we can get a wide variety of people who say the modern mean anything. to me or i was alive and an adult when they invented the mall and it's ridiculous or whatever they're going to say this book is a fascinating cultural history. it is fascinating architectural history. as we know from meet me by the fountain, people didn't used to have cell phones. you just had to kind of go and believe that they were going to be there for you and maybe there'd be like an in sync or new kids on the block concert going on, depending on how good your mall was at the time. i want you to put your hands together and please help me welcome alexandra lange.
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seemed like a form of architecture that everyone had seen, and so they would be motivated to learn more and understand better and then once i got into my research as you'll see a little bit today, i found out there were just so many things that could be explained and in and around the mall that it was like an even bigger topic than i initially realized. and that's just like what makes any book project really fun.
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so, so just a little bit about myself. so i'm a design critic and this is my fourth book, my previous book was called the design of childhood. and like one of the things that i learned a lot about for that book was children's spaces. so after i speak here, i definitely want to go down and check out the children's room and this library, because that's kind of something that i collect in my head. my book was published in june and it covers the history of indoor shopping malls from the 1950s to the present and each chapter of the book really covers a decade in the life of malls, from invention to some demolition. and the last chapter suggests a lot of ideas about how to repurpose malls for our, you know, digital possibly disconnected future. i'm sure here in wisconsin, there are a number of examples of dead or dying malls. and one of the things i hope people like leave my book and maybe leave here today with is
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the idea that malls can have a second life or sometimes a third life and they don't have to just be what they have always been. so i first had the idea for this book in 2018 when i read about the italian architect renzo piano's involvement with a project called city center bishop branch out in san ramon, california. that's like in the greater bay area in northern california, the word city center were in the name of the project. but when i looked at the map, it didn't seem to be that close to any cities and piano himself kept calling it a piazza in his beautiful italian accent. but this wasn't an italian hill town and i suspected and my research later proved that this was in fact a mall. but why did no one want to call it a mall? so cut to almost four years later? and my book that in part answers
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that question by linking malls to the fashion cycle like malls are made for the same kind of disposable bility in a sense that the clothes that are sold inside them are so once upon once the defining news narrative of shopping centers became dead malls after the 2007 recession. a lot of developers wanted to distance themselves from the word mall, if not from the architectural typology of shops around a central square, which is an ancient typology. so i also found once i dug into it, that there are lots of malls that are alive and well, but maybe an equal number that are dead and dying. so this is really is a story about some things that are alive and some things are that are dead. and i think a lot of people just want to separate things into categories. one or the other, a or b, and really it's both. so as i write in the book mall
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architecture was really made for malleability. it was made to change. unlike lots of other buildings, the mall is a framework for other smaller architectures. anchor tenants like department stores, boutiques, food counter kiosks that should be able to swap businesses in and out easily. the mall exterior, which is typically blank except for a fun science like this one, is time lists and easily updated with new signage. and it seemed to me that by burrowing into the past of the mall, its best designers, its original intentions, it 70 year legacy. at this point i could help both the mall lovers and the mall haters figure out what to do with these ubiquitous structures. so for the rest of my, you know, speaking time today, i'm going to take you through some architectural highlights in the history of the mall. and after that, i'm happy to take any questions that you have. so there are many states that
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claim credit for being, you know, the originators of the mall and california is actually one of them. the california mall story begins in westchester, which was then a new aerospace industry suburb of los angeles. and it begins with the design of what was actually a freestanding department store. the man typically and i think correctly credited with invent the shopping mall, was a man named victor gruen. he was born in vienna and he fled the nazis and emigrated to new york in 1938. his first job was working for the industrial designer norman bel geddes on what would become the futurama pavilion for general motors at the 1939 world's fair, which you can see here, that pavilion is notable for mall history, for two reasons. number one, it has a 35,000 square foot model of what the usa would look like in the year 1960. so, you know, 41 years in the
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future. and it was a model because it was for general motors that included downtown skyscrapers, suburban housing, 14 lane highways and a heck of a lot of cars to the exterior of the pavilion. it was designed as a stream lined object itself with long ramps snaking up the exterior and guiding the huge crowds that came into the building. so this is basically like early disney world or trader joe's like organizing the line architecture when a decade later grew in and his first wife, designer elsie crumb, were asked to design a freestanding department store for westchester, california. they were obviously thinking back to this world's fair experience in terms of the design that department store miller runs was a mid-priced or and it was ahead of the curve in realizing that the market for their wares was moving out of
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traditional downtowns. all the women living in those little single family houses that were being built in california and lots of places after the war were going to need a place to shop. but while they had arrived at downtown department stores by streetcar and bus, these stores were only accessible by car. so. so rather than surrounding this brand new store with even more dining, a parking lot grew in income. it turned part of the parking lot into a promenade. and drivers access the top floor entrance. as you can see here, through these dramatic crisscross ramps and up on the top floor, there was also a nursery for children and a restaurant with a view of the surrounding suburb. at street level, they created this series of display windows, which were set at an angle to the sidewalk so that they could be seen both by pedestrians walking by and by drivers who were speeding by the outside as you can see, is otherwise pretty plain, except for the giant
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mclaren's logo. so the the giant logo really became the model for department stores attached to stop shopping malls, which tend to be solid, windowless boxes with a big logo at the scale of the highway and i came to think of them as a giant version of the store shopping bag, which basically looks the same. but miller runs despite having all of these facilities embedded in it was only one building and a few years later, gruen was contacted by the dayton family of minneapolis. their department store, dayton's, which is now the target company, was a traditional downtown anchor store. but by the early 1950s, they had begun to see a downturn in their business like the store owners in many other cities, hudson's in detroit, neiman marcus and dallas. they realized that they were going to have to open stores in the suburbs, but they wanted to exert design control over the
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surrounding for their stores and that's where gruen came in. he offered advanced modern design with a european sensibility and the design for a shoppingall that was centered on a plaza that was meant to remind shoppers of main street or the town square or even the bustling streets of his native vienna. you can e that design in this bird's eye view with the black skylight indicating the central plaza. it was also surrounded by two department stores and then two smaller bands of individual shops. the mall was an improvement on the town square, however, because as the advance press for southdale mentioned, the first indoor shopping mall offered 365 shopping days a year in climate controlled comfort and in minnesota and i think the same must be true in wisconsin. state known for like deep snow in the winter and very humid summers. the idea of having all of these
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other days in which it would be pleasant to shop was really a big selling point to kind of underline this point. the central open space at southdale was known as the garden of perpetual spring, and it featured plants and fountains. it had a carousel, it had an aviary, which is the kind of cylindrical structure that you can see in this photo. aviaries were very popular and early models, which i can't really imagine that now. and it also had two sculptures by the important modernist sculpture sculptor harry bertoia, which are still in place, and bertoia did a fair amount of model sculpture and a lot of other ones are also, you know, scattered across america. those sculptures are known as the golden trees. again, unlike underlining this kind of indoor nature theme. so southdale was a huge hit. national press covered the opening as if it was a major suburban breakthrough, which i
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would argue it was, and grew. an associate soon had more work than they could handle over time, the design of the mall would mature and the pinwheel plan that southdale was designed on would be discarded in favor of much simpler and more easily replicable plans. the simplest version of that is really shaped like a capital i with one department store at each end, and then a double run of shops going between them. typically there would be planters and benches down the center, often under a skylight. but this simple version could also be dressed up and throughout the 1960s, some of the country's best architects experimented with the mall as a site of architectural invention. a great example of this is northpark center in dallas, which was built in 1964 by the developers ray and patsy nasher. and it's still owned by their daughter, nancy. there's a whole interesting saga
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there, really, only about ten malls that are still under family ownership in the u.s. today. and many of them are, in fact, the most successful models. north park is one of them. south coast plaza, kind of between l.a. and san diego is another in outside detroit, somerset collection, which is owned by the forbes family, is another one of those family owned malls, north park was originally l-shaped with one department store at each end and one at the corner. and the architect in north park, e.g. hamilton, designed the mall to have a very elegant, minimalist structure of white brick, polished concrete floors. and there's a little flower shed bug in the corner of the frame of every storefront, which you can kind o see by the t and table in this image. so the idea was that the stores could come and go, you know, none of the stores that you see in this picture are stil aroundbut that the
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architecture would remain the same and would remain kind of untouched by the passage of time. so i would say that north park, you know, still looks like this, which is kind of amazing. and that's partially thanks to careful maintenance and partially due to the devotion of the family to keeping them all up when north park doubled in size in 2006, the new architects from the same firm actually repeated and updated the original style of some materials changed. they have glass railings now, which you couldn't have had in 1965, but the white brick, the concrete and those little corner bug pieces all stayed the same. a grander model for the mall was the arcades and galleries that sprang up in the mid-19th century in both the u.s. anthe united states. thanks to advances in cast iron and glass technology, the granddaddy of all of those
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galleries is is the galleria vittorio emanuele in milan, which gave its name and form to dozens of models with long barrel vaulted glass roofs. i've found as i've gone to different places, the gallery is often the nicest mall in a town and a lot of them look, i think just like this example in houston with just the super long glass, you know, running for several blocks. but the houston galleria was actually the first of this style of mall built in 1970, and it was developed by the visionary developer gerald hines, and designed by joe obata of oak, which is a st louis firm. hines post oak, which was the area in which the galleria was built as the node of a new urban center. he was really trying to create a second downtown for houston and the galleria, which also pioneered the mall ice skating rink, was anchored by two department stores, including this neiman marcus, which had a
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design inspired by le corbusier's latourette, which is a monastery, which is obviously a very ironic reference. i mean, i also think the ice skating rink is funny because it's like, okay, you're building a mall in minnesota or wisconsin and you have the gall, the garden of perpetual spring, but you build a mall in texas and you have an ice skating rink year round. so it's like, let's flip, flip the seasons on their head. the galleria also anchored an ongoing and really successful mixed use development, which includes hotels, housing offices and a sports club that has a track on the roof that goes around the outside of the skylight. so when discussing the history of architecture and design, we often focus on the designer or architect as the author of the work. but it's a little bit different when it comes to the history of malls. victor gruen was trained as an architect, and he worked as a
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designer during the early part of his career. but once malls took off, his real role really became more that of a salesman of the concept. like a lot of people have asked me, you know, what made victor gruen so successful? because there were other developers doing the same thing. and honestly, you know, part of it comes down to personal charisma. you know, i feel like if he were a developer now, you know, maybe he would be on tick tock. he would definitely be all over the business channels, talking because you can tell by the coverage of him at the time that he you know, he would say anything. he would pose for heroic photos. he he was very willing to be a media personality. he actually had a partner named larry smith who, you know, nobody ever mentions who was an economist. and they worked together to make the financial argument for malls that would appeal to civic leaders and bankers and real estate people while he like the developers, you know, used
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architect renderings to speak to communities about the beauties of the mall. so there are a number of charismatic developers in the mall story from the gnashers in dallas to gerald hines in texas to james rose, who i'll speak about in a moment in baltimore and beyond, hines began as a solo office tower developer. but in projects like the galleria and houston and one just after in dallas, he expanded his scope to city making, putting malls at the center of new mixed use neighborhoods. this promotional brochure that i'm showing you here was something that he showed around to potential investors before the design was finished. you can see that this doesn't have the dramatic skylight. but what interes me about the brochure is that it treats post oak as if it were already a place. it's sort of like, you know, the way people use photo realistic renderings today and the
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brochure really presents the galleria as kind of a theme park of life where everything is taken ce of under one roof, everything is fun. it's a mall upia with the ice skaters and a carousel and the fancy circus banners. gallery is really created a bridge between the architecture of the past and the present, and many of the new galleria shape shopping malls that were built in the 1780s and nineties were built into existing cities. a great example of this is the eaton center in toronto, which above a hugtransit hub. and it's really the heart of a ci agai a place like toronto gets very cold in the winter, so everybody tries to, you know, make their transit pass. so they can cut through the eaton center and the galleria form really becomes the look of choice for developers and architects who are trying to make downtown shopping competitive with the suburban shopping malls, westside fashion
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square in los angeles is another example of the style of mall and it was highly effectively used as an inrior setting and clueless. there's one chapter of my book where i talk about teen movies because they have so often and so effectively been set at malls and the experience of teens in movies actually like stinks pretty closely with the experience of real life teens. so movies are a great shorthand to talk about that in the book, i talk about how mall atriums are essentially catwalks and i feel like this scene which cher and christian kind of the most beautiful kids in school, ascend on this escalator up tords the light of the skylight in the mall, really makes the point abo how the architecture is set up to showcase people and showcase certain kinds of activities. but by the early 1980s, the suburban mall formula of
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shopping, plus a pinch of entertainment like the carousel or the skating rink needed an update. it had been tired and people weren't really willing to travel as far for those things anymore. so this is where a california architect named john gerty comes in. gerty had built a fair number of cookie cutter malls, including the glendale galleria, and he thought that the entertainer meant part of the mall experience should be brought to the foreground rather than remaining in the background. and he was also very like dismissive of the tasteful european stylings of the galleria. he thought malls should be fun and they should look like fun. and his first attempt to do this was horton plaza in san diego, which is an indoor outdoor mall, given the nice climate in san diego, and it was built over part of the city's historic downtown, and it's designed to resemble a hollywood version of an italian hill town with
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striped palazzo like buildings that you might find in siena. and lots and lots of level changes. but gertie took that idea of the mall as entertain it much further with the mall of america, which was for a time the largest mall in the usa, which centers on an actual amusement park and has four wings themed after different world cities. the idea was, you know, children thrills for the kids and a taste of sophistication for the adults. again, all under one climate controlledoof at the mall of america had all of the regular shopping for department stores and two levels of specialty shops. but there was also enough to do at. you could fly to minneapolis for the weekend and never leave the mall and in the first kind of flush of excitement about the mall of america, people did that. there were direct flights to minneapolis just for the mall, essentially from all over the usa.
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the section i'm showing you here with the green metal roof and indoor streetlamps, west market street. let's supposed to look like a rtf european marketplace with little stalls on the ground floor sellin food and ndde gifts like an authentic brick lined street. the develorsf the mall of america 555 group had previous. they opened the west edmonton mall in alberta, which had even more extravagant themes, including an indoor pirate ship and it kind of makes me sad today that their more recent projects, the american dream mall in new jersey, among them are less themed and more of a generic luxury look with acres of white marble and stainless steel railings. i have a lot of nostalgia for the kind of you know, faux garden district look of the original mall of america. but i think one of dirties most important insights, which had been part of the original mall pitch, was how you get families
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to stay at the mall longer. and he took it just, you know, to the maximum level by putting an entire theme park, which was originally camp snoopy in the middle of the mall with the restaurants arranged around the central atrium overlooking the rollercoasters. it was kind of like a state fair happening all the time or a trip to disney without leaving your home state. and while your kid was riding the roller coaster, you could have a drink or buy easter clothes or just browse, knowing there was no threat of rain and very little crime. so one of the ways that i see malls starting to reposition themselves in the 21st century actually goes back to journey's idea of entertainment. as an anchor, you you know, malls have movie theaters much more more elaborate seating, more elaborate food options. there are vr experiences. they're trampoline parks, they're climbing walls and just
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a couple of weeks ago, i read about a mall in north vancouver where they were putting like an indoor mountain bike track in the former sears. so there's a lot of things you can do with a mall. but in adding market street to the mall of america, gertie was also following another trend in mall design, which was the return to downtown. the proliferation of malls in the early sixties and seventies had, as the downtown merchants feared, siphoned many shoppers off to the suburbs. so city leaders found themselves with dense, walkable streets that were empty of people. so enter james rse, an early developer of shopping malls around his native baltimore. he thought that me of those suburban shoppers along with tourists and office workers, could be enticed to sh downtoit offered an experience that could only be had downtown.
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an experience of ope pedestrian walks, real old architecture and lots of local businesses. peopleado see what was special about their city, but it needed to be packaged a little bit. and i hadn't been to madison before today, but i spent this morning walking around downtown, so of course i ended up on the state street, pedestrian mall and i think you can see that it has a lot of design similarities to this faneuil hall marketplace in bto faneuil hall, you know, basically kicked off a giant urban trend for the building. a pedestrian plazas are about 200 built in the u.s. between 1975 and 1990. and now most of those are closed. but the ones that continue to thrive are often in college towns. so, i mean, basically, madison is a great illustration of a point that i make in my book. and i don't know when state street mall happened, but i kind of guessed by the signage that was it was in the eighties, maybe somebody here.
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okay. all right. so, yes. so it's like. right, it's like right in there with the trend. and it was really fun for me to see it so well used this morning because, you know, that's kind of like what i think more cities want and more cities need to have. so the rouse with the designers, ben and jane thompson came up with the term festival marketplace to refer to what they were doing. they were taking an industrial architecture that was past its prime and turning it via adaptive reuse into a new tie kind of shopping district. he was very successful at this for a time. faneuil hall marketplace here. this is what the interior looked like, sort of big at baltimore's place, which has more of a seafood theme. and manhattan, south street seaport and pier 17, along with the other pedestrian malls that i was just talking about
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so i hope you can kind of look at this interior photo of faneuil ha a see h the colors and materials and textures of the festival marketplacesreally different from those of the mall. it was warm. instead of being cold with festival like fabric banners and roofing open stalls instead of individual boutiques, brick paving and so on. one of the things that the thompsons put in their kind of design manual for faneuil hall was that nothing could be wrapped in plastic like everything had to be out and touchable. and i think sometimes when i go into new retail concepts today, i think, oh, okay, like this part of the seventies is totally coming back because you know, when you can shop online, the reason to go to a store is so that you can touch things. so i feel that all of these patterns are really cyclical, both in cities and in shopping
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in general. during the late seventies, the humorous calvin trillin would actually write us a satire of such places in the new yorker, which i found, and it's really delightful because the brick and the kitchen where stores, you know, everyone had a copper pot because julia child told them to became kind of a cliche. but for people who are used to shopping in fluorescent light loading only on floor plastic wrap, please is this was really a revelation for a number of the top top architects in the profession design malls which is something that people often find surprising. ben omon had been head of the architecture program at the harvard graduate school of design. gilbert of hk also designed the washington, dc. space museum in others you might have heard of include the office of eero sainen, which designed the neiman marcus in dallas, i.m. pei, a cesar pelli, whose work
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you see here. but the interest in the mall, in the upper echelons of the profession began to peter out in the 1970s as malls became more. you became witness, architects started being afraid of commerce that it would taint their practice to design something commercial. and this is something that john gertie raged about, you know, often in interviews from the nineties on because he felt like he couldn't get any respect. it may interest you to know that frank gehry, of all people, designed a shopping mall. he's spent the early part of his career actually working for victor gruen, and he designed santa monica place for james rose, the same innovative developer as faneuil hall. santa monica place is basically the west coast version of faneuil hall. it was very white and beachy instead of industrial and brick and metallic. instead of warm, it.
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gary designed this mall during the same period in which he designed his famous house, and you can see some of the same materials like the chain link on the parking garage that he used in his house, as well as the angles and indoor plants and the mall. he was really working through the same design ideas in both projects. ultimately, gary was really unhappy with this project because some parts of his design vision clashed with that of the retailers and developers who kind of thought they knew how to make a mall work. and after this, he swore he wouldn't do any more commercial projects. but i don't know. i think it's kind of great. i like the what if idea. what if gary had gone on to design more malls? like what if he became a famous mall architect instead of a famous museum architect? so the last chapter of my book is devoted to the mall today, and it includes projects like thisne in new york city, which is new essex market and opened
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in 2019 and was designed by shop, which is like a pretty up and coming younger firm. it might looa little bit different in the materials, but it's really bas on the same idea tharose and the thompsons brought to taking the local and the histical and putting it into a more high design, more centralized and easier to us context i feelike this ceiling which actually follows the underside of the seats in a movie theater that's upstairs, has an eo the coffers and the dome of a place like faneuil hall or the structure of a galleria ceiling and other, you know, 1970s projects like that. the part of the chapter that also seems to run it resonate with a lot of people is a section i have on adaptive reuse of malls, and particularly this example, which is austin community college, highland campus. it uses all of the parts of a
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dead mall, highland mall, which opened in austin in 1970 and has built a number of new structures. so you have classrooms in the old boutiques, you have an eating area in the former food court, you have this internal seating and part of an old department store and they cut skylights into it so that there's more natural light. but they've reused the concrete and steel which is increasingly important now that we're more aware of, you know, how how costly it is to extract building materials and that, you know, we shouldn't just be throwing them away according to the colleges chancellor, students positive associations with the mall actually helps some first generation students feel comfortable on the college campus and they save the giant fiberglass hotdog from the original food court and it's become a popular selfie location at assisi highland.
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so as i kind of wrap up my, you know, summary skim through my book here, i hope becomes clear that i didn't write this history of malls for nostalgia purposes like i thought the book would appeal to, you know, eighties babies like me. but i also want people to understand that the knowledge about how malls are and were well-designed and kind of well thought through concepts and how they have become important community spaces. i feel like armed with this knowledge, you know, all of us should be better able to continue what might be done with the dead mall and to consider it with some creativity and excitement, you know, like the excitement that those festival or a new mall opening in town once generated. there are a lot more stories to be written. malls and the ones i tell in my book are really just the start. so thank you.
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i'd love to take questions. if people have questions because you're supposed to go up to the mike over there. i saw that we used to travel to the state of wisconsin go exploring all the malls. i saw the decline in them but what i do see now and i'm really excited about is that malls in that manner have some decline, some haven't. but they're doing it with food. now, like in milwaukee, they have a market place here. they have some place on the east side and that's really exciting to see. just a comment. what do you think about that? yeah, there's actually a large section in my book about food
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and i talk a lot in particular about bubble tea as kind of which i love, which my kids love as a driver or like an exemplar of kind of like how malls are using food today. i see bubble tea as part of a line of low cost, sugary kind of attractive food that has always been popular. and malls like if you think of, you know, kind of the original mall snack as being a cookie from mrs. fields, it's like you have cookie and then you had smoothie shops and, you know, cinnabon is in there somewhere. and today you have bubble tea, which you know, kids love. and it's like it's very instagrammable and it's something that like people will go out to get like, you can't have it at home. you have to go out. and it's very sociable, like roughly what's your favorite flavor, etc., etc. . so yes, food is a huge driver because again, like i was talking before about entertainment experiences, you
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know, food is an entertainment experience in our culture today. so i think there are a lot of malls where they've actually, you know, replaced the department store with, you know, a high end food market like eataly or a more local version of that, where there's fresh food for sale, maybe packaged food to take home, but also a restaurant where you can go and meet a friend. there is a really old dead mall designed by victor gruen in outside detroit called north land, and that's what they're planning to do with the former hudson's department store is turn it into a food concept. so i think it's a sign of, you know, the movement of culture. people are more interested in food, more places have more food from more other places. you know, on tap. i mean, i can just tell like that there's a lot of food culture in madison from walking around today and people will leave their house for that. people want to be sociable around that.
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yep. so the kind of thing that i got from the presentation was that like dead malls can be very into new things. but could you explain a little about like how malls die or what a dead mall is? sure. how malls die? well, the short answer to that is capitalism. but that's not a very good answer. one i'm not a business writer. and the whole time i was writing this book, i was like, okay, there's all this business stuff about malls over here. like, i love to talk about the design and the urbanism and the culture and like, but i have to get into the business stuff. so one important kind of business part of malls is that during their their heyday, basically, you know, 1962, 1990, like there were hundreds of
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malls built and they kept building them when a mall owner wanted to know when a mall developer wanted to build a new mall, they didn't necessarily go to a town that didn't have a mall. many times they would go to a town that did have a mall that was doing pretty well but was ten years old and they would build a new mall five miles further out of town because, you know, first ring suburbs, second ring suburbs, people had built houses further out during that time. so they centered the new mall in like the new ring of sprawl. well, when you build a new mall five miles away from an old mall, both malls cannot continue to be healthy. the new mall cannibalized the old mall and they that language, that kind of like zombie language, which i find really funny. so all of the, you know, shopper ads are like, ooh, brand new mall, bright and shiny. we'll go there. so then you have a dead mall. so basically, like mall owners, like killed their own sector of
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the economy by overhauling america. like if you look at the numbers, malls that we have in the u.s., there's just way too much shopping per person. so even had we not had the 2000 recession, 2007 recession, i think we still would have lost a lot of malls because there just simply aren't enough shoppers. that recession combined with online shopping now combined with the pandemic and combined with, you know, the death of the department store has really taken out a lot of malls. so it's actually a right sizing if you think about kind of the the shopping ecosystem. but unfortunately leaves these very large structures that can be a real drag on the economy. communities. that was a great question. i grew up with the glendale mall in indianapolis. i want to ask you about the roughing and unruly thing and reroofing of malls.
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glendale started with an open piazza style. they roughed it for the first relaunch of the mall, and now, you know, decades later, they unwrap it, which and they've done that here in madison to at the held alma which makes no sense at all in a winter climate. could you talk about the roofs? yes. again, that that goes back to my earlier mention of how malls are also part of the fashion cycle. so in early mall development period, some of them were malls, which technically means an indoor space and some of them were shopping centers, which tackling means, you know, an outdoor space. so, you know, they'll be a plaza in the center, but it's on roofed, as you say. but, you know, by the by the 1980s, like any mall that was, you know, going to be fairly high end, sort of had to be roofed. so a lot of these earlier built in like, you know, the 1960s that had started smaller, they roofed them, they added another wing, they added a movie
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theater, they added a third department store, something like that, in order to keep themselves competitive. well, during by the 1990s that had, again, you know, that version of malls had become old hat. they started to build from scratch things called lifestyle centers and lifestyle centers were essentially high end malls, but outdoors. so they would still have anchored department stores that either and they would have essentially like a pedestrian mall, you know, down the center. but it would be all built from scratch and all in the middle of a parking lot. and those tended to take on the architecture of their location. so, you know, you'll have kind of brick ones with white pediment in connecticut and, you know, there's some alamo looking ones in texas and things like that. so once the lifestyle centers became the new things in malls, some of those older model model malls that had roofed themselves wanted to unmute themselves so that they would look more.
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like a lifestyle center. so maybe that was a long explanation. but i just i find all this so funny because it's like anything you can think of that has happened has already happened. it'll probably happen again. this has been really great and i know that you've been looking at this from an architecture standpoint, but i had some women's studies classes and at that time we had learned that malls were also created in order to protect women, because women were the shoppers eyes. and so it was kind of like keeping women. i was just curious, you, from a sociological perspective, you know, got got any information while you were researching malls. yeah. yeah. now that's a great point and i do talk a little bit about kind of the experi tions of women vis a vis the mall. i would say that malls are designed to protect women. it's not so the indoors thing,
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it is like a little bit of fear of downtowns, you know, as downtowns started to decline, malls were seen as a safer place, you know, well-lit, well cleaned, you know, had all of the amenities. and so that was why both women and children were like thought to be safer in a mall than they were on the streets. i would say they were also designed for women because they were designed to give the women who were in the suburbs with their kids something to during the day, you know, because in that immediate postwar period, like there were all these single family houses in the suburbs and the men went to work in their cars and, you know, there was no provision necessarily for a social place for women. and that's where i think malls really in and probably saved a lot of women from quiet despair because. when you went to the mall, you would see your friends, you would have things for your kids to do, like it was a more social and community place. the other thing that the mall
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did for women is it offered a lot of women either like a secondary job or career opportunities like working for the stores, like a huge percentage of mall employees have always been women. and having those job opportunities is in the suburbs was really important. my question pretty much follows up here on the social, social, whatever, the social aspect of the whole thing we used to i live in northern wisconsin. you go to the mall of america like five times and it was too much smaller malls were better. what it did, they did for me and you know, with the. tweens 12 to 1618, you could go to the mall, drop them off with their friends. they would come out exhausted. i mean, they tried on clothes. they reached they did everything. it was great.
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and as time went on and i went beyond the tween thing, malls became exhausting. i didn't have enough time in my life to do it. so do you see did the malls follow the sociological of more women going back to work? you don't have time to wonder. 12 stores. i don't need to look for five white shirts. i just need a white shirt in and out. well, i think that's a great point. i mean, number one, like i feel like part of the reason have an emotional attachment to malls is because they spend so much time in them as teenagers like teeny your teen year years are really very vulnerable and intense time. so whatever you're doing, the during those years really imprints upon you. i have teenagers myself now, so i'm like this in action and having this kind of safe space to have an independent social life, to shop at the stores that, you know, you're trying to work out your personal style and
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like a lot of that exhausting trying on is like, am i a hot topic person or am i gap person or am i a limited person? know i'm dating myself here, but so but yeah, i when when there weren't so many women with time on their hands in suburbs, the kind of peak hours at malls really changed a lot. and also, you got more kids being dropped off at the mall without their parents, which was problematic, you know, for some mall owners. and you saw like i would think and an uptick in just weekend usage of the mall and that's where things like mall walking groups come in. you see mall owners trying to strategize like, you know, who's available during the work, during the week, during the work day, like how might our malls serve these different populations that are looking for different things at different times of day? and so like mall workers, which there are a lot of communities,
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you know, use the mall for year round exercise and they tend to take over the mall first thing in the morning, you know, walking before a lot of the stores were open. and then, you know, having coffee, doing their shopping like right at like 9 a.m. or 10 a.m.. so yeah, it kind of depends on cultural patterns. change the patterns of use in malls. excuse me. hi. so my era of mall going was like the early 2000s. that was sort of the my teen years. i definitely have lot of memories of like the giant mega malls i lived in near des moines. so we went to like the new mega-mall. there, and i was like pretty confident that it was like a center of social activity at the time. and it certainly was. we were dropped off, you know, to wander the mall with our runs. but then i watched stranger things the season three where they said a lot of time in this eighties mall which like looked just glorious to me as like a center, like all the families
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were there, the moms were in their exercise classes like the kids. so i'm just curious and maybe you sort of answered this like, what do you see as like the peak of like malls as a like a social space or like a public space? like what era? yeah. i mean, i really i see it as being centered more in the eighties. like i think that stranger things like part of the reason that season resonated so much with people is like it felt like this very pure version of the mall where it was making everybody happy. and in fact, i should tell you, like i use stranger things to help sell my book, like i started my book proposal with stranger things because i thought, okay, like it makes it topical and you know, the duffer brothers are definitely eighties babies. they actually grew up in the same part of north carolina as i did. but there was, you know, a secondary peak, i think, in the early 2000. so kind of post third way, the wave of malls, but pre-recession
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like there was a lot of interest there. you know, there were many malls. that's where the centers also flourish. and so it's not that there's only one era of, you know, young americans that spent their time at the mall. i think. yeah, their history has kind of a cyclical nature, like when we are far away from an era to see it as history. and often that's about 30 years. like that's when the preservation groups feel that they can get in and start talking about preserving buildings. so i think the eighties malls have hit that point where they seem historic, where have nostalgia for them, where a show like stranger things can really exploit that nostalgia. i went to the stranger things experience and they have this whole like fake food cart for you to take. so that and i was like, it would actually be nicer to be in a real food court right now? like and they wouldn't be price gouging me quite so much.
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so, yeah. like, nobody has nostalgia yet for the malls of the early 2000s, but i bet they will one day. i had just three real quick things. one was to mentioned stranger things, but you absolutely touched on that because i'm about the age where i remember. i'm about those kids age. so i remember those malls and those stores and it's really fun for me to watch that. the nostalgia in it. but i also wanted another woman mentioned hilldale mall, which i grew up about two blocks away from on the west side of madison and when they revitalized that, i at first i was a little skeptical, but i think they really did a really good job with that. and they did open it up. and it's a lot of the things you talk about are what they did with that mall. so i don't know you would ever have a chance to get out to the west side to see that. but i think it's really pretty neat how they turned a regular mall into what it is now and the
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third thing is i live up in old claire, wisconsin, and they used to have a mall before i lived there. that is now, don. but now they have a new one. but i have the feeling that one's going to slowly but surely die. they just closed the movie theater in there and that's that was kind of like the death knell of it, i think. but now they're already talking about how they're going to revitalize that. so i find that interesting, too. and i'm going to wonder what they're going to do with that. yeah, i mean, like at the peak of malls there, maybe 2000 in the u.s. now i think the number is more like eight, 700, 800. so i know that my my book can never talk about all the malls. and i was actually really worried about this when, you know, everywhere i went with somebody to be like, well, have you been to this might have been that that was so you know like it's like a game of gotcha but what i'm really hoping the book and it sounds like this has worked today will do is like give people a framework for understanding their mall for
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understanding that like what's happening at hillsdale hillsdale held them all like isn't alone, you know, it's part of these national movements and so it's like a framework for understanding your own experience. even if i'm not talking about like the particular mall that you went to because you know, very few things that happen in cities are actually unique. like it's always patterns of cities of similar size cities of similar climate. and i think it's really helpful to like, look to other places for examples and then, you know, bring them back to your town. hello. thank you so much for the talk. i'm calling from taiwan. i thought it very interesting, like looking from a different country that you mentioned bubble tea, which is our national lab, one of our national foods. yes, i done a very interesting how it's being like utilized, how it's being like change and like how people are receiving it outside of where i'm from.
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and i always find it very interesting where there's new stuff like popping bubbles and stuff like that, which is not like that's authentic, original. yeah, but yeah i found a very interesting was the concept of festival malls and particularly the return from suburbia to downtown. and since the original move from suburbia was characterized by a decline in downtown main streets, how did the make up of like businesses in your research? did you see changed when the return to downtown occurred and was there a revitalization of local business that that was a more part of this traditional main street like type shops or was it like more like other stores coming in from other places as they tried to commercialize it and try to make it more clean or convenient, that that's a great question.
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so i would say the first like the first wave, the first ten years of these sustainable marketplaces and they were really well curated. that wasn't the term that they were using then. but that's how we talk about this kind of retail now, where there was somebody in charge who, if they saw a cool new shop opening up, you know, in another area, would say, oh, do you want to try a kiosk at our festival marketplace? like, i think it would work with the mix. so like really carefully trying to pick local merchants and then trying to keep the mix really fresh. but what happened over time and i saw this especially at south street seaport in new york city, is, you know, they kind of stopped paying attention and then more chain stores come in and then, you know, tourists come from out of town to have authentic new york experience and they're like, wait, we have j.crew at home. like, we don't need to go to j.crew in new york city. and so they become more generic. the maintenance hasn't kept up the the art, the architecture,
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which is historic, but it was renovated in a period like starts to look dated like i love seventies architecture. i think it's really fun. but to a lot of people they just see like those brown or those round lights and they're like, oh, it's old. like, i don't like that. so i feel that if they had kept it up, like the way the owners of north park have kept up their mall, like they could have continued succeed in that original mode. but by letting it become worn and more generic, they kind of self-sabotage it. get like, oh, okay. all right. well, thank everyone so much. those are great questions. and thank you for having me.
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