Buyosphere - The relationship between commercial and public spaces and the impact of the shopping mall on contemporary society

Master's Thesis 2012 68 Pages

Art - Architecture / History of Construction



1 Abstract:

2 Argument:
2.1 The development of commercial spaces:
2.2 The regional shopping mall: What can we learn from Victor Gruen?
2.2.1 Architecture of the regional shopping mall, influence on sales and society
2.2.2 The regional shopping mall as new centrality in the periphery of the American City: A way out of the urban sprawl?
2.2.3 The Gruen Method: Adapting Shopping Centre Sience to Downtown
2.2.4 The Gruen Effect: Victor Gruen’s legacy
2.3 The shopping mall in contemporary Europe
2.3.1 The exodus of commercial spaces of inner city centres
2.3.2 Revitalization of the inner city, gentrification, the historic centre as a museum and the city centre as a tourist destination
2.3.2 The case of Barcelona: Revitalization of public places; Art in public spaces
2.4 Commercial spaces as places of socialization
2.4.1 The social impact of commercial structures on the Parisian bourgeoisie
2.4.2 The end of (physical) public space?
2.4.2 Shopping mall as buyosphere, leisure-mall and the city in the city
2.5 Shopping architecture
2.5.2 Mallrats; Teenagers and the shopping mall
2.5.3 The Shopping mall and public space in São Paulo and Beijing, two megalopolis
2.6 The shopping mall in Switzerland

3 Conclusion

4 Appendix
4.1 Bibliography
4.2 Images

1. Abstract:

A preliminary research carried out in 2009 on the shopping centre “Serfontana” located at the traffic junction between Chiasso and Mendrisio, was the starting point for the following paper. I analysed the mall’s characteristics and its attraction as a public place for teenagers.

Shopping malls belong as much as urban sprawl, fragmentation and traffic congestions to the characteristics of the contemporary city. The analysis of effects and consequences of commercial spaces are therefore crucial to understand urban development, dynamics and future. Additionally, I would like to underline, that urban processes are not only influenced or fostered by architecture or landscape planning, but are also strongly engendered by social and cultural attitudes and their transformations. Hence, it is important to consider also the influence shopping malls have on society and public life.

It is a critical study about facilities which are used daily and are part of the common urban landscape. The analysis implicates a thorough insight into the world of consumption in particular and the mechanism of “superplaces” in general, focussing on their impact on changes of social habits and public space.

Moreover says Marco Torres in his text, Luoghi magnetici, that studying the places of great attraction and popularity, where events, leisure activities, consumption and parties are held, might give advice on how to improve the unpopular, hostile, miserable and lifeless places.1

Further I would like to reflect about the development of the relationship between market and public space throughout the time.

Finally, scrutinising Swiss shopping malls might give indications on contemporary acquisition behaviours and future development of the contemporary city and its commercial spaces.

2. Argument:

2.1 The development of commercial spaces:

In order to fully understand the mechanisms of commercial spaces and their relationship with public spaces of the contemporary city, it is in my eyes very important to have a critical insight into the historical development of this issue.

Most historic and sociological reports on birth and creation of commercial spaces, maintain, that with the industrialization in the 19th century, the city, society and culture had undergone great changes and went into a new direction, which affected the architecture of spaces with commercial and public functions.2 I can read from this, that these urban, economical, sociological and cultural movements were intertwined and one change brought in its train the next and shaped not only the consumer habits and characteristics of the rising bourgeoisie, but also have had consequences on today’s society. I will come to this issue further on.

Many historians agree that these urban revolutions of the times of industrialization have first and foremost started in Paris and have spread from there into the western world affecting the biggest and influential inner cities. Mostly the structures and the populations of the city centre of Paris were involved in this process, where high density, chaos and hostility prevailed. Haussmann, which was in charge of the planning of the city, widened and straightened streets, which opened up to great perspectives. For the first time vehicles and pedestrians were separated and large pavements were introduces, where the upcoming bourgeoisie strolled the streets up and down looking at the illuminated and richly decorated windows.3

At the beginning of the 19th century specialized spaces for commercial purposes emerged in the city; it were the Passages, a Parisian invention, which have in my opinion, influenced the shopping mall ever since. Annalisa Rubino mentions in her article, that the Passages linked the commercial function with social relations and affairs. They included not only shops but also restaurants, cafés and reading rooms and halls for performances. They created a new place where the society got together; they were the place, where thanks to the glassed roofed galleries, intellectuals, politicians and Fl â neurs could meet without being disturbed by traffic, harsh weather or pungent smells.4

Due to the mass fabrication and the production in series, great volumes of goods had to be exposed and sold. The small craftsmanship shops were no longer accurate and new and bigger commercial spaces pushed them away. Hence, we can notice how the change of production methods enticed the commercial architecture to respond and the first Grands magazins was inaugurated in 1887, almost entirely constructed in glass, following the latest inventions shown at the Parisian world exposition. In my opinion, the most important characteristic of the Grands magazins, is its internal disposition. The shops on various floors face an internal glass covered courtyard, forming galleries or balconies where everyone sees and can be seen constantly. These structures enabled the visitor to browse through the great offer of products without commitment and the relation between customer and producer slowly disappeared.5

Like the Passages, the Grands magazins were multi-functional and offered not only commercial services, but also included class rooms for diverse evening courses and ballrooms.6

I maintain that which functions and services should and could a shopping mall in our times provide, as crucial. I am convinced that analysing the services, function and variety of shops the mall offers, can reveal the structure and culture of the population it attracts. Marco Torres analysis in his book, Luoghi magnetici, the commercial architectures, in order to gain an insight in the public life of this time and makes it clear that the commercial spaces are powerful structures, which are able to influence greatly the public life and processes.

The Grands magazins show, furthermore a strong link between architecture and commerce.7 This symbiosis creates fantastic spaces of glass and mirrors, which lead the visitor into an idealistic world away from the dullness and harshness of the rough ordinary city life.

The typology of the enclosed shopping mall emerged after the war and still exists. It emerged in the twenties in the United States, and was clearly formed out of the architectures of the past century, mentioned above.8 But had however a completely different impact on the city as the Grands magazins, which were located in the city centre, linked by important boulevards. The modern shopping malls were a response to traffic and parking problems of the inner cities. The structure of American cities, is based on a motorised society. This lead to decentralisation of commercial activities, positioning the malls on the edge of the cities where land was much cheaper, which allowed investors to accompany the malls with large parking spaces. The first suburban malls, where positioned along the most frequented high ways, which lead to the newly created residential areas. David Magin, mentions, that the commercial investors did simply follow the population into the suburbs9 and Victor Gruen a pioneer on the development of suburban malls maintains, that with the position on the roads which lead to the homes of most of the citizens, the malls, organised in a commercial strip, did try to satisfy the needs of the population. The commercial strips presented a convenience, as they allowed to shop easily, on the way home. Shops have simply to be where people live.10

The city centre was therefore striped from the commercial activities. At the same time, however the commercial spaces lost its former public force and dedicated themselves to pure consumerism, becoming a mono-functional aggregation of plain boxes. It has however to be said that the development and meaning of the suburban malls have had different approaches in the United States than in Europe, as their urban structures and their growth have not the same background. North American city sprawl follows rules, whereas the contemporary European city has to deal with ancient city centres and uncontrolled diffused and chaotic growth. The American sprawl consists in the creation of large residential areas, which lack of public spaces. The suburban mall is therefore considered by the population as a centrality and is the only space, where public life can take place, as show many examples, I will discuss further on.

Lather would the regional shopping centre by Victor Gruen be the new building type that came to define the American suburban landscape of the 1950s.11 It seemed to fully satisfy the needs and desires of the suburbia’s population.

2.2 The regional shopping mall: What can we learn from Victor Gruen?

As we saw before, the shopping mall cannot be related to a specific time period, nor can it be accredited to one architect, as the historian Richard Longstreth has rightly put it:”There is no paper trail leading to the origin of the shopping center.”12

However, I am convinced that the regional shopping malls planned and designed by Victor Gruen have not only influenced the American suburbs, but also the further development and revitalization of dead downtown areas and brought the mall back to its routes; to the Parisian Passages and Grands Magazins, “where the shops were more than a collection of shops 13 as he tried to include civic and cultural activities, just as the Parisians did.

Notwithstanding, it is more than obvious that his architecture ideas could only be realised if they brought about enough profit.14 Therefore, Victor Gruen has not only forced the quality of “public” and open spaces, but has also repeatedly used architecture as a sales rates enhancer, manipulating the population. His shopping malls show clearly already the tendencies of today’s consumer paradises and shopping temples, where the visitor is more than once compared, by sociologists, with Alice in wonderland, who strolls through an artificial and colourful world of fantasy.

Nevertheless was Gruen undoubtedly considered a pioneer in commercial architecture. In my eyes, it was his strong will to create open-minded architecture, harmoniously integrated in the surrounding landscape, which made his theories valuable and so important for the American and European urbanism. Indeed the regional shopping mall was considered as a “New Building Type”, which would define the American suburban landscape of the 1950s.15

At this point I would, however, like to emphasise the fact that Victor Gruen was rather an urbanist than a mere architect as “[he] considered himself a defender of the social, cultural, and spatial qualities of the city.” and even before Victor Gruen started to work in the field of commercial architecture, he was convinced that the shopping mall could “well be regarded as satellite downtown areas, offering much of what metropolitan centers give.”16 He was therefore convinced that the shopping mall could act as an urbanistic instrument. I think that these characteristics of his way of thinking reveal themselves very clearly in his projects and strategies he published already in the 1940s.

2.2.1 Architecture of the regional shopping mall, influence on sales and society

Gruen saw the architect as a generalist, who deals with several matters, including marketing, economics, urban and social issues. The editors of the Architectural Forum saw the architects who dealt with shopping malls, in a leadership position holding together a big and complex project.17

Victor Gruen attached time and again a certain importance to the architectural quality in his shopping mall designs. The appearance from the outside and the spatial disposition on the inside should never be neglected. In his book centri per l ’ ambiente, he says about the architectural project:

“Lo scopo del progetto architettonico fu di raggiungere imponenza e unità tramite la semplicità e un aspetto formale lineare. Fu usata standardizzazione per gli edifici degli affittuari e pure l’esterno del grande magazzino rifletteva uno stile rigoroso. D’altra parte fu prestata grande attenzione alla proporzione degli edifici e alla qualità degli edifici. La usuale presenza di volumi tecnici al di sopra della “linea ufficiale di gronda” fu completamente abolita.”18

In this time such importance on shop design has never been given by anyone else than him. Only recently the flagship stores and boutiques of the international brands hire star architects to design their shops. According to Alex Wall the commercial architecture did strongly differ from the architecture produced by the leading offices such as Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Rohe.19 Gruen did however always believe in the strong relationship between the commercial and public architecture.20 He did indeed develop a unique and in my eyes coherent and sensible trade architecture stile. Furthermore I agree with Wall, that Gruen’s brilliance lied in having to deal with more than function and aesthetics, being a complete generalist. The shopping mall needed to deal with traffic and logistic problems. Wall argues that “the design of the graphics, landscaping, and the placement of art was [for him] as important as architecture”21, which above all had to follow very restricted budgets.

Starting designing inner city shops in Europe and later in the USA, he moved on to plan entire urban areas following a strict list of conditions.

His strategic elements, which evolved from project to project included first and foremost the organisation and separation of traffic. He wanted to create a clear distinction between the pedestrian areas and the traffic roads. One should be able to park easily, but should not be disturbed by cars.

The centre should furthermore have a strategic localisation, balancing accessibility and economical aspects. It would be the architect’s duty to choose the right location and estimate the range of the customer basin.

In addition, the architect had to decide on the programmatic and tenants mix, in order to create a sense of vitality. As I said before, Gruen’s shopping malls did always include cultural and leisure activities like the Grands magazins in Paris. However, I think that offering also “ordinary” services such as post offices, laundries and drug stores, integrated fully the mall into the daily routine. This mix of functions did not only attract different kinds of people, but also kept the shopping centre alive day and night. The shopping malls of our times especially in Europe have in contrast become selling machines and single-minded spaces, lacking any kind of good quality cultural events, which would keep the shopping area alive also during the evening. Only he cinema multiplexes remind us of Gruen’s ideas.

His architectural style was without doubt also influenced by the gallery design of Paris and Milan. From the beginning of his shop making career he made use of a lot of glass and artificial as well as natural light effects, in order to let the shops look like colourful bazaars.22 The colonnade, which protects the visitors from the weather and the commercial streets are paramount elements, which return constantly in his designs.

The masterplan of the shopping area should remind the visitor of typical European inner cities. Narrow streets were alternated by large open squares all featuring different designs. The department store should function as a magnet, and was therefore situated right in the centre of the spatial layout. In this way the clients would pass in front of a maximum range of stores.23 Here again, we see that Gruen interestingly combines architecture composition with marketing strategies. I think that the idea to make the shopping centres work and look like European cities; the so called compact cities show already the concepts the New Urbanists were looking for. The compact city seems to remind people of a healthy and bustling city centre; a place where public places and commerce invite citizens to live, work and spend their free time. Shopping centres after Gruen mostly try to recreate and imitate this utopian image of an ideal city we have in mind.

He was the first mall developer, who designed a completely closed and indoor shopping experience, in order not to be dependent on the weather and other disturbing effects. Gruen’s structures were also as the Grands magazins, provided with the most innovative technical devices, such as air conditioning, escalators or elevators, which had only been recently invented, in order to make the shopping experience as convenient and pleasant as possible. The costumers should instead of being bothered by the heat, cold, cars and noise, admire beautifully designed squares decorated with sculptures, art and colourful flowers and sit by fountains listening to gentle splashing.

In 1956 opened the Southdale Centre, which was the first enclosed, and fully air-conditioned and central heated mall. Even though all the activities were now held indoors, Gruen was very concerned with the fact, that the light conditions and the usage of the squares would let the costumers feel as if they were outside at the fresh air. “[…]tramite caffè sistemati sui marciapiedi, che, con i loro ombrelloni davano l’impressione di essere all’aperto.”24

I believe, looking at his drawings, that Gruen’s masterplans and spatial compositions are more than a simple recreation of European cities. He created and developed his own design.25

I agree with Gruen, that we architects should be more concerned about commercial architecture. I think that it is important to create spaces, which make people feel at ease and protected. In addition I think also that shopping is part of our day to day activities and, having read and studied about consumption spaces, I am convinced that it takes also an indeed great part of our public and social life, and should therefore also be one of the architect’s main occupation, just like studying and planning living and working spaces are.

Notwithstanding I am convinced that Gruen was very well aware of the fact that people spend more money, the longer they stay in the shopping area. Combining leisure and cultural activities with shopping and provide the structures with comfortable relaxing spaces, not only attracts more customers, but also invites them indirectly to stay longer and therefore consume a great deal more (called the Gruen Transfer).26

In addition one could call Gruen’s malls introverted architecture, as are many recently built shopping malls in Europe. Alex Wall argues to this issue, that the first commercial complexes were placed at about 30 minutes car ride from the residential areas in the middle of nowhere but attached to important traffic arteries.27 This context “made any visual connection with the surrounding sites [...] difficult, if not impossible.”28 At this point Gruen preferred a rather plain and simple exterior appearance.

He was, however, concerned about the surrounding landscape. His designs should always be harmoniously imbedded and be linked to a larger green area. In addition he was very concerned that the clients reached the entrance without having to pass a sea of cars.29

A further strategic point was the ability of the shopping centre to expand. His masterplans were from the beginning provided with future constructing phases. He furthermore went so far to plan the whole surrounding landscape including various functions, which would work well with the shopping mall, such as offices, buildings for group medical practices or hospitals, schools, and apartment buildings. “These would create, with the shopping centre as the focal point, a new kind of multifunctional regional centre.” as sais Axel Wall on this matter.30

Which leads me to the, in my eyes most important and relevant characteristic of Victor Gruen’s work; the idea of creating “crystallization points”31, places which would act in the American sprawl as new centralities for the suburban population.

He concludes admitting, that these pioneer centres did cause problems in terms of their lack of relationship with the surrounding landscape, and mentions thereby the ugliness and the large amount of space taken up by the parking lots. In addition, Gruen speaks about the incapability of the centres to absorb other urban functions.32

2.2.2 The regional shopping mall as new centrality in the periphery of the American City: A way out of the urban sprawl?

The new regional shopping centres of the fifties and sixties in Northern America were created in order to bring mixed used into the so called bedroom suburbs and to increase investment from outside. In addition it should enhance the sense of community and create a new centre for the township. It was seen as an “experiment with direct relevance to the redevelopment of downtown.”33 Victor Gruen and his followers, as I said before, tried to combine sales rates with architecture of good quality in aesthetics and civic facilities.

The shopping centres offered to dispersed suburban populations crystallization points for suburbia’s community life.” By affording opportunities for social life and recreation in a protected pedestrian environment, by incorporating civic and educational facilities, shopping centres can fill a void . ” 34

Victor Gruen believed that it is important that the surrounding population could identify themselves with the centre. I think that furnishing the indoor streets with letterboxes, bins and mother and child friendly installations; have introduced the “ordinary” day to day life into the shopping mall and made it possible that the centre became more than just a place where to shop. Certainly did the rooms available for clubs and associations enhance the feeling of a community place. Victor Gruen said about that the mall “[it] shall be related in their minds with all the activities of cultural enrichment and relaxation: theatre, outdoor music shell, exhibition hall.”35 And “In early open-air shopping centres, but especially downtown, public space wasn’t to be understood merely as a singular entity - a square or plaza- but as a series of urban settings, a spatial and built ensemble where people and activities came together. The city should be like a large outdoor living room where activities could be publicly enjoyed together with many others.”36 As I said at the beginning, Victor Gruen was primarily interesting in offering the population public spaces. I would call him a real city maker and his shopping-cultural and leisure centres could be compared with any idea of a, even if many times utopian, ideal city. Even though Gruen has also given the people space for political debates, his “cities” are not concerned with governmental issues. His spaces are very close to the public satisfying every need, without introducing the public authority. His centres were really adopted by the local population as their city centre (especially in the case of the Cherry Hill Mall in Delaware, where the local population changed the name of their city to Cherry Hill)37, a place where they got together, shared culture, politics and money, in spite of being under a private roof.

At this point I would like to comment some of the points mentioned above.

I would like to add that it seems that for today’s consumption centres the public value is only considered if the mall struggles economically and in terms of popularity. Is the economic revenue very strong, the shopping malls do not need to provide any relaxing spaces or decorations nor do they need to organise any festivals or events. Even though the shopping centre in Mendrisio for instance, does not include any civic or cultural activities and does not provide any urban furnishing and is almost unreachable on foot, it is visited on the weekend as a leisure activity by families and couples.

I also reckon that these consumption complexes do not have the intention to replace or serve as a town centre. They function only on its own and do connect neither with the local population nor with other nearby functions, very much in contrast to Gruen’s intentions. However, I have to add that the suburban development has been very different in the USA.

One of Gruen’s major intentions in his regional shopping mall projects and masterplans for deteriorated downtown areas was to link shopping, consumption and leisure with civic and cultural activities, in order to enhance the sense of space and centrality of the squares and public spaces of the shopping malls. I would, however be more critical towards these mechanisms and I agree with the arguments Marco Torres and Lizabeth Cohen bring forward.38 Torres underlines, that the shopping malls and theme parks cannot be considered entirely as public spaces as these spaces are private ground and therefore belong to internal laws and special regulations. He adds furthermore, that because they are difficult to reach on foot or by public transports, it automatically excludes a certain range of costumers.39 During the era of Victor Gruen, the regional shopping malls, did allow manifestations and the distribution of pamphlets and manifestos. The square in the shopping mall would be the demonstration space par excellence. In recent times, however these actions are strongly under attack and the shop owners try to free their spaces form the public law.40 However, I must admit, that Victor Gruen believed that the public space is always linked and related to the marketplace and that one can only by successful with the existence of the other.

Victor Gruen understood that the marketplace was a place of exchange and communication, an interface between economy and society, and that, as he claimed in The New Yorker, “Merchants, more than any other group, had created the city.”41

2.2.3 The Gruen Method: Adapting Shopping Centre Sience to Downtown

As in Europe, the American suburbs had become very strong and pulled many economic functions, businesses and other activities out of the city centre. The convenient shopping malls, which are easily reached by car and providing enough parking places and which moreover present a wide range of products at different prices all in one spot, have brought the inner city shops to the brink of an abyss.

After having built the most influential and successful regional shopping malls, Victor Gruen went on to apply his theories onto rundown town centres and dysfunctional inner city shopping areas. These designs followed basically the same guidelines he established for the regional shopping malls, acting as he did in the suburbs as a generalist trying to solve the traffic problems as well as the designing of the buildings and public realm.42

He started making the city centres car free, which we will see in the next chapter, has been a great issue also in European cities. Gruen wanted to create a centre with a mix of functions and uses.43 His plans where comprehensive and would affect the bigger part of the city centre. I have to say that today urbanism is not able to act with such large scale project in the inner cities. European cities were not built as fast as have American ones and our cityscape has a historical and layered structure, which has been constructed over centuries. Landownership rules and historical backgrounds allow only delicate interventions.44

2.2.4 The Gruen Effect: Victor Gruen’s legacy

After retiring from Victor Gruen Associates in 1968, Gruen decided to leave America and go back to Vienna, from where he was forced to escape during the Second World War.

In the seventies Gruen published the book Centres for the Urban Environment, looking back at his career with a critical eye admitting to be disappointed of the development his shopping mall creations had been taken up, blaming above all American developers and investors. Gruen disapproved with American capitalism and life style chasing only maximum profit. He claimed that his projects were ripped off every social aspect keeping only what directly contributed to turnover.

I agree with Jeffrey Hardwick, that Gruen’s work and attitudes are rather ambiguous. As we have seen before, Gruen strongly collaborated with mall developers guaranteeing great sales volumes profitable investments. Furthermore, even though admitting his defeat in fighting urban sprawl with the development of regional shopping malls, he went on building shopping malls in Europe and thus bringing about similar urban problems also to the old continent, where developers where very keen on stepping in Americas footsteps. And indeed, the results have been identical; diffused settlements, car dependent shopping areas in the suburbs and the eradication of small businesses in the city centre. Even though Gruen had understood and recognised his mistakes committed in America, laying them out in a speech held in 1978, he went on building retail architecture. In his speech, however, he makes clear that the outcome of his creations had to do with a lack of culture and civilization of the American society.

Critics claim that Victor Gruen had definitively converted shopping from a chore into a leisure activity, which they called the Gruen Effect; attractive design and architecture linked to pleasure and fun make customers spend more than actually planned and needed.45

I believe that if shopping malls are only aiming strictly the maximum of profit and leaving behind the humane part of Gruen’s projects, the effect is above criticised. Is the shopping mall, however, well integrated into the surrounding landscape and urban fabric, giving space for identification and places to meet and gather, as it was planned by Victor Gruen, then the shopping mall, can in my eyes, have positive effects. Shopping malls should therefore respond to the society it is serving and not merely be a figurehead of the enterprise. Gruen criticises brands who deposit their identical looking and anonymous selling boxes in the suburbs all over the world.

The shopping malls of Victor Gruen may not have been socially and urbanistically as successful as planned, but I strongly believe that Gruen’s legacy has had a great impact on commercial architecture and has without doubt been a pioneer in this domain. Furthermore, I think that today many ideas of Victor Gruen have been successfully realised. The newest creations in Switzerland (Westside, Bern), for instance veer towards places that are more than selling machines.

2.3 The shopping mall in contemporary Europe

2.3.1 The exodus of commercial spaces of inner city centres

Most European cities have since a couple of decades to deal with the so called push-pull mechanism. On the one hand peripheries attract commerce and the creation of large business parks, leisure and cultural activities which are mostly attached to the shopping malls and theme parks, on the other hand high rents, strict building regulations, traffic and parking problems make it difficult for small and medium sized businesses in the centres to gain ground in the market.

However, the low land property prices and the associated high revenue are not the only reason why most of the large supermarket enterprises decide to decentralise their headquarters. Most of the commercial centres are located, where the national roads penetrate the cities, where they are most visible, best accessed and where they have enough space for future expansions and parking lots and where the flow of people is the densest.46

David Mangin adds to this fact, that since the 1970s, when most by-pass and ring roads where build and when the first extra-urban commercial centres emerged, man work was needed in the suburbs for their construction, management, representation and commercialisation. This has also fosterted the need of cheap hotels in their proximity47, which has also served the various theme parks and other tourist attractions. Today theses cheap hotels profit from the popular city-hoping promoted by various low-cost airlines.

Being positioned at strategic traffic junctions, as already have the regional shopping malls in the USA, it can serve a much larger costumer pool as many costumers are disposed to drive up to 30 min to reach the commercial centre, if it provides enough parking and a wide range of products and brands.48

Furthermore are the peripheries preferred over the inner cities, because the centres can expand much more easily. Additionally the brands can present their image much better, as there are hardly any building regulations. The façades face mostly the high ways and can therefore function very successful as billboards presenting the enterprise to a very large amount of by- driving people. The blue IKEA boxes, for instance, are recognised already from afar. The brand identifies itself with its façade and the façade is designed according to the identification of the enterprise.49

David Mangin, mentions in this context also the fusion of leisure, culture and shopping activities, which is lately taking place. As most shopping malls are equipped with cafés, restaurants, multi-plex cinemas, bowling, sport facilities etc.50, these poles become bigger and bigger and attract people and especially also families to the suburbs also on evenings and weekends. In my eyes can the attachment of a wider range of activities also have positive effects on the surrounding area, as they keep the centres also alive at evenings and nights and become open-minded places, where different kinds of people meet during most of the day. In addition, as we have seen in Victor Gruen’s projects, did the open-minded character of the space serve as a new centrality for the surrounding residential areas. However, I have to say, that at least in Europe, the commercial centres are usually positioned at cut off industrial areas and are therefore only badly linked to the residential parts of the city. I agree with Patrizia Gabellini, that the barriers (roads and train tracks) have to be abolished51, in order to link housing with the commercial-leisure-culture centres.

I know from personal experience, that many rules and prohibitions, which hinder small and medium sized businesses to grow. For instance are coffee shops in Switzerland often not allowed to place tables and chairs on the pavements, so that mothers and grandmothers look for sunny terraces provided by the coffee shops in the shopping malls, where they can above all shop very conveniently at the same time.

In addition, many taxes and bans on price-agreements make it impossible for the smaller businesses to hold their own and disappear or are replaced by department stores.


1 Cf., Torres Marco, Luoghi magnetici: Spazi pubblici nella citt à moderna e contemporanea, Franco Angeli s.r.l., Milano 2003, p.8

2 Cf., Rubino, Annalisa, Spazi commerciali, architettura della seduzione, in Amendola Giandomenico (published by) La citt à vetrina, I luoghi del commercio e le nuove forme del consumo, Liguori Editore, Napoli 2006, p.22

3 Cf., Torres Marco, Luoghi magnetici, cit., pp.58 ff

4 Cf., Torres Marco, Luoghi magnetici, cit., pp.80 ff

5 Cf., Rubino, Annalisa, Spazi commerciali, architettura della seduzione, in Amendola Giandomenico (published by) La citt à vetrina, cit., p.26

6 Ibid, p.25

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid., p.27

9 Cf., Mangin, David, La ville franchis é e : Formes et structures de la ville contemporaine, Edition de la Vilette, Paris 2004, pp.110-112

10 Cf., Gruen, Victor, Centri per l ’ ambiente urbano, trans. Jole Coetto e Piero Lupieri, Görlich, Milano 1975, p. 20 ff

11 Cf., Wall, Alex, Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City, Actar, Barcelona 2005, p.57

12 Longstreth Richard, author interview, Washington, D.C., 1997

13 Wall, Alex, Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City, Actar, Barcelona 2005, S.57

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid.

16 Gruen Victor, Smith Larry, Shopping centers - The New Building Type, Progressive Architecture, 1952

17 Cf., Wall, Alex, Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City, p.78

18 Cf., Gruen, Victor, Centri per l ’ ambiente urbano, trans. Jole Coetto, Piero Lupieri, Görlich, Milano 1975, p. 4

19 Cf., Wall, Alex, Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City, p.89

20 Ibid., p.237

21 Ibid., p.89

22 Ibid., p.69

23 Ibid., pp. 78 ff

24 Gruen Victor, Centri per l ’ ambiente urbano, cit., p.49

25 Cf. Pic., Wall, Alex, Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City, p .84, p.97

26 Cf., Wall, Alex, Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City, p .67

27 Ibid., p.65

28 Ibid., p.101

29 Ibid., p.80

30 Ibid.

31 A name coined by, Siegfried Giedion

32 Cf., Gruen, Victor, Centri per l ’ ambiente urbano, p.50

33 Cf., Wall, Alex, Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City, cit., p.58

34 Gruen Victor, Introverted Architecture, “Porgressive Architecture” 38, no.5 (1957) pp. 204-208; Gruen Victor, Smith Larry, Shopping Towns USA: Planning of Shopping Center

35 Gruen, Victor, Centri per l ’ ambiente urbano, p.71

36 Ibid., p.189

37 Cf., Wall, Alex, Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City, cit., p.103

38 Cf., Cohen Lizabeth, From Town Center to Shopping Center, “American Historical Review”, jstor, oct. 1996, cit., p. 1059

39 Cf., Torres Marco, Luoghi magnetici, cit., p.8

40 Cf., Wall, Alex, Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City, cit., p .67

41 Gruen, Victor, Centri per l ’ ambiente urbano

42 Cf., Wall, Alex, Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City, cit., pp. 116 ff

43 Ibid., p.129

44 Cf., Gabellini, Patrizia, Techniche Urbanistiche, Carocci, Roma 2001

45 Cf., Hardwick, M. Jeffery, The mall maker: Victor Gruen, Architect of an American Dream, University of Pensilvania press, Philadelphia, 2004, pp. 216

46 Cf., Mangin, David, La ville franchis é e : Formes et structuers de la ville contemporaine, Edition de la Vilette, Paris 2004, pp.110-112

47 Ibid., p.127

48 Cf., Gruen, Victor, Centri per l ’ ambiente urbano, pp.20 ff

49 Cf., Mangin, David, La ville franchis é e : Formes et structuers de la ville contemporaine, Edition de la Vilette, Paris 2004, pp.110-112

50 Ibid., p.118

51 Cf., Gabellini, Patrizia, Techniche urbanistiche, cit., p.265 ff


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
1.6 MB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
University of Lugano – Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio




Title: Buyosphere - The relationship between commercial and public spaces and the impact of the shopping mall on contemporary society