Since the construction of the first fully enclosed shopping center in 1952, the shopping mall has evolved into the heart of many suburban areas across the United States. More than simply a place to purchase goods, this veritable "temple of consumerism" has become a primary place for community and social interaction and an essential element in many citizens' day-to-day lives.
This study explores the spiritual, emotional and physical effects of the enclosed shopping mall on the public, chronicling the growth of the mall, its role in shaping urban and suburban life, its positive and negative impacts on society and the environment, and its future viability. As this work shows, the mall remains rich in symbolic influence, and in many ways mirrors the American condition.
Lisa Scharoun —
Lisa Scharoun, an assistant professor of graphic design at the University of Canberra, Australia, has published research on the symbolism of shopping malls in the Australasian Journal of Popular Culture and The Conversation. She has exhibited her design, photography and fine art in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and China.
Scharoun, Lisa. America at the mall: the cultural role of a retail utopia. McFarland, 2012. 263p bibl index afp ISBN 0786462728 pbk; ISBN 9780786462728 pbk. Reviewed in 2012nov CHOICE. • New from McFarland •
Scharoun (graphic design, Univ. of Canberra, Australia) examines the cultural as well as commercial importance of the contemporary enclosed shopping mall in the US and traces its creation to Austrian designer Victor Gruen in 1953. Inspired to create an indoor space where "shoppers will be so bedazzled that they will be drawn--unconsciously, continually--to shop in a master-planned, mixed-use community," Gruen forever changed retailing. The Southdale Mall in Edina, Minnesota, brought Gruen's vision to life. Since then there have been many changes, including theme malls, factory outlet malls, and "mega malls" like Minnesota's giant Mall of America, with an indoor ice skating rink, wave pool for "surfing," and miniature golf course. Scharoun examines the mall's evolution from several perspectives--design, commerce, and culture--noting that Gruen modeled his concept on "medieval European town squares and turn of the century arcades." From a cultural viewpoint, the timing of his idea was perfect, paralleling the post-WW II migration from cities to suburbia. This book covers it all, with text, pictures, and an extensive index. See related, Mark Moss's Shopping as an Entertainment Experience (CH, Sep'07, 45-0346) and Jeffrey Hardwick's Mall Maker: Victor Gruen, Architect of an American Dream (CH, Jun'04, 41-5707).
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division and graduate students, faculty, practitioners. -- P. G. Kishel, Cypress College