Is there anywhere quite as American as a classic shopping mall? We love consumerism, treating ourselves and food courts, so they really are the perfect place to while away a few hours and spend some of our hard-earned dollars. That said, do you really know everything there is to know about the history of shopping malls? Here are some interesting facts!
The first American mall was built in 1952 in Edina Minnesota, and the architect in charge, Victor Gruen decided to look to his hometown of Vienna for inspiration from the markets. What was later named Southdale Center boasted 75 different shops across two levels and at the center of it was an incredible version of a European piazza. The food court featured fountains, sculptures, and plants, and for the first time introduced the idea that malls could be for socializing and relaxing as well as just shopping – something that was replicated across the country.
Frank Lloyd Wright wasn’t a fan
Famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright hated Southdale Center when he first saw it, saying “You’ve got a garden court that has all the evils of the village street and none of its charm. Who wants to sit in that desolate-looking spot?” Luckily he was in the minority, and the concept has stuck!
Victor Gruen changed his mind…!
Not everyone was happy with the way malls transformed, however, with the father of them, Gruen disowning them in the future. He was upset about his original design, a homage to his home, being cheapened to become a “giant shopping machine,” without any of the thought and the care he put into it to create a social experience.
The coolest mall ever
The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, is so much more than a shopping center. Among the shops and restaurants, you will also find a comedy club, a mini-golf course, an aquarium, flight simulators, a museum for children and even an amusement park! It has been the largest shopping mall in the world since opening in 1992.
The mall can hypnotize you
Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but the same concept that makes casinos so alluring and hard to leave is mirrored in malls. Wandering around a mall, you may find that you lose all sense of time and space, but not necessarily in a bad way. This disorientation is named after our old pal Victor and is known as the Gruen Transfer. The mall is set out specifically to be sort of maze-like and encourage you to walk past most of the shops before even finding a way out.
Santa is the king
Being a mall Santa is kind of a big deal, and as such, they are paid well too! In fact, playing Mr. Claus over six weeks is a salaried position which will get you a handsome five-figure paycheck. Of course, you have to be the best of the best for such a prestigious job, and you also put up with a whole lot (like screaming kids), so the pay makes sense!
So next time you are window shopping, or meeting friends for brunch, or even, in the case of the Mall of America, riding a rollercoaster, take a second to appreciate the history and culture that goes into each one of those social hubs!