It seems like the oldest false start in the world as a rumor swirls that a local mall is closing. Sometimes, they do. More times than not they are re-created to serve new, and often, public purposes, like libraries, museums and community event spaces. From Victor Gruen’s Southdale Shopping Center–America’s first indoor mall–which opened in 1956 near Minneapolis we have seen an evolution in what malls look like, the amenities within and the purpose. At first, it was functional. Let’s get in and out once we find this item or that. Then it became experiential as we had our first crush, date or ice cream lalapoolaza there. Alexandra Lange, one of America’s leading design critics, and author of “Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall”, put her estimable skills to defining the form and function of malls over the years and their story of constant re-invention. First a suburban phenomenon needed to create a faux public square to fascinating interpretations of charming restoration in urban centers like Boston’s Faneuil Hall. And that re-imagining continues to this day as on-line shopping and big box stores force mall owners to consider their future in this fast changing retail environment.
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