This blog was prepared by the authors in their own individual capacities. The opinions expressed in this blog are the authors' own and do not reflect the views of the Center for Creative Land Recycling, its Board or its staff.
Published on October 4, 2019
Guest post by Peter Trio & Robert Ungar
Modernism was meant to provide a fresh approach to the way in which we design our cities. Free from the constraints of historic precedent, design was no longer an aesthetic, it was function. With Modernism as their new tool, architects now had the ability to shape the life of those living between their walls. Suburbs sold Americans the promise of light, air, and space, but relocating required them to leave behind the community of the urban core. Austrian immigrant and architect Victor Gruen would introduce to America a cure for the social isolation caused by suburbia: the shopping mall. In 1956, the first mall of its kind opened in Southdale, Minnesota, promising community, commerce, and a palette of native California landscape. The idea spread like wildfire. By 1990, thousands of indoor shopping centers had sprouted up across the United States. Prairies, forests, and wetlands were exchanged for asphalt parking lots and big box department stores. The need for community in suburbia was the bait for consumerism. For the first time in history, the civic center of town would be under a privately owned roof and thus at the mercy of a capitalist system. The relationship was symbiotic, as the landlords provided a healthy tax base for the region in return for the subsidization of automobile infrastructure.