Shopping malls – the Gruen connection

Speaking of how to cut tax to maximise economic growth, how do you design shopping areas to keep everyone shopping? As some Troppodillians will know, the Viennese architect Victor Gruen gave us the shopping mall.

My Dad thought he may have been a relative. But I don’t think he ever looked him up and found out.

The first shopping mall, the Southdale Centre in Edina, Minnesota, was the brainchild of an Austrian immigrant, Victor Gruen, in 1956. Gruen used an aviary, orchestra, hanging garden and artificial trees to keep people shopping. “More people – for more hours,” he wrote in 1973, “means cash registers ringing more often and for longer periods.”

Gruen hoped to revitalise American towns by re-creating the traditional Viennese plaza. Ironically, the opposite happened. The mall, as the US State Department website notes, has become “a way of life in America” but is widely credited with destroying the physical and social fabric of American cities.

From today’s SMH.

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18 years ago

“but is widely credited with destroying the physical and social fabric of American cities”.

That’s not true. What it has done is CHANGED the way of life in America. Not destoyed it. people simply do their shopping differently and treat like entertainment centers rather than places to buy the needs of life.

Malls are hugely entertaining in certain ways for lots of people. They aren’t my cup of tea and it seems they aren’t yours either.

However they have changed the shopping esperience and made it more efficient than strip shopping.

You shouldn’t forget that weather has a lot to do with life in the US. I wouldn’t like to be hanging about a strip shop in Minnesota in the winter as I wouldn’t last a second.

Compare that to the nicely heated and A/ced shopping malls.

Ever been to the one in New Jersey Can’t recall its name. It is amazing.

18 years ago

You should be proud of your relative, Nick, as he did a terrific job in thinking this out.

18 years ago

the portait the woman in the SMH portrays seems to have been lifted out of some 70’s doom and gloom book to scare the shit out of us.
Her portayal of shopping malls shows more ignorance than anything else. Malls in the US for instance are a great innovation since the weather in most parts of the country is simply lousy- it’s either too hot and humid or too cold.

Copmparing life to say 50 years ago when shopping was mostly does by plebs to exist is a far different way of life we or Americans have now.

18 years ago

When I was working with Architecture Oceania circa 1990 our PR material referred to James Rouse as the great pioneer of the mall and later the festival marketplace. It seems that Victor Gruen won by a couple of years.

“In 1958, Rouse built Harundale Mall in Glen Burnie, Maryland, the first enclosed shopping center east of the Mississippi River. His company coined the term “mall” to describe the development, which was an alternative to the more typical strip malls usually built in the suburbs. Although in retrospect, many attribute the rise of the shopping mall as a major contributor to the decline of the city downtown core, Rouse’s focus at the time was on the introduction of malls as a form of town center for the suburbs.”

Architecture Oceania was a Sydney firm that worked in consultation with Rouse to design Harbourside, the festival marketplace in Darling Harbour. They were also working with a consortium that won the tender to re-develop Flinders Street Railway Station as a festival marketplace but the onset of the recession killed the scheme.

More on festival marketplaces.