In the 1950’s, a “new” and complex model for the shopping centre appeared
across the American continent; stand-alone, large-scale, fully enclosed,
air-conditioned objects surrounded by a sea of parked cars. This suburban
typology seamlessly integrated into its environment, fusing roads and
infrastructure with urban planning and architectural precision, and, at the
same time, redirected and re-established patterns of socio-cultural behaviour.
These shopping centres came to be known as: Malls.
However, the mall concept is not entirely “new”. From the early nineteenth
century, the acceleration of an urban middle-class wealth amplified the culture
of consumption and changing fashions across Europe, expanding the retail
revolution. Retail arcades were developed throughout London and Paris. A
highly influential typology, arcades such as London’s Burlington Arcade were
later copied and reproduced throughout Europe’s wealthy cities. The
department store then made a dramatic international appearance – London’s
Whiteley’s and Harrods, Paris’s Le Bon Mache, and New York’s Stewart’s –
and consequently, permanently reconfigured shopping practices by providing
luxury services. The “mall” has since developed across the globe in various
iterations; the 1950’s American drive-in model only one of many.
Furthermore, the mall concept as a theoretical experiment has been tested by
the Japanese Metabolists all-inclusive city proposals that reorganise cultural
and capital expansion through the fusion of infrastructural, commercial, and
retail megastructures and precincts; and Archizoom’s endless and featureless
indoor landscapes animated only by shopping and air-conditioning. Rem
Koolhaas has also recently explored the concept of shopping with the Harvard
Graduate School of Design to explore its spaces, people, ideologies, and
Today, the idea of the mall continues to transform. From boutique high fashion
galleries, all the way to Walmart, our cities host colossal mega-malls,
chain-stores, underground networks of retail tunnels linked to transportation
services, and up-market architectural renovations of the nineteenth century
classics. We are also experiencing the proliferation of all-access virtual and
online shopping platforms.
This studio claims that the mall is perhaps one of the city’s most important
sites of public activity. The mall’s ability to infect the urban realm and
maintain a culture of consumption, aspiration, and desire is what makes it a
fundamental component of our daily lives. Is the mall absolute? Can we
understand our cities and their public interiors without the experience of the
mall? And, if the mall is so integral to our life practices, how do we antagonise
and redesign them to inspire new forms of critical encounters in the urban
realm? This studio will test and challenge the potentiality of the mall as the
threshold between the city, the urban and the interior by amplifying its public
nature by manipulating its physical, spatial, material, and political interfaces to
redirect socio-cultural behaviours. Ultimately, this studio provokes a more
forceful collision between the public realm and the mall’s interior to make
more explicit (or blurred) the intersections and/or boundaries between them.
The aim: to use the mall’s dogmas to shift, disrupt, and confuse the current
order of our urban reality.