The Mall - Do we love it or hate it?

I went to the mall this past weekend. I don't like malls. I don't like the idea of being inside on a gorgeous day or the fact this is what has become of the American downtown. However, I am a sucker for tearing through a to-do list in a few hours with my car parked in one spot the whole time, so you gotta do what you have to do.

The particular mall I went to, Stamford Town Center, is not exactly the best of the bunch but I admit some malls can have cool architectural moments. Regardless of the particular mall though, this last trip brought me back to thinking of how shopping malls even started.

The Austrian architect Victor Gruen is known as the father of the American mall. He designed the first enclosed shopping mall, Southdale Mall (great boring name) in Edina, Minnesota, which opened in 1956 and it was a hit. After World War II people fled the cities for the suburbs, able to get from here to there with their new automobile. No longer were shopping trips made to downtown where shops gave the streets some hustle and bustle. Downtowns fell nearly silent as everything people needed was available in the suburbs in one sprawling indoor building with a huge parking lot surrounding it.

Gruen was not the first to think of the idea of a bunch of shops in one place but he was the one that designed the shopping mall as fully-enclosed and with the more suburban destination feel that we think of when we picture a typical American mall.
Southdale Mall today 
Some of examples of old "malls" are The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, built in the 15th century 

and Oxford England's Covered market, which opened in 1774

The idea is the same but it's the execution that makes a difference. These older malls keep a sense of the city street though they are inside. They are more interesting and you don't have to remember where the fountain is to find your way around.

The shopping mall is not going away no matter what we may think, love it or hate it. Check out this link for some images of the 2011 European Shopping Centre Finalists.