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Frank Lloyd Wright: Shopping Mall Visit

In 1953, Austrian architect Victor Gruen unveiled his design for the world's first modern shopping mall: Southdale Mall in Minneapolis.

"It cost twenty million dollars," Malcolm Gladwell once reported, "and had seventy-two stores and two anchor department-store tenants, Donaldson's and Dayton's. Until then, most shopping centers had been what architects like to call 'extroverted,' meaning that store windows and entrances faced both the parking area and the interior pedestrian walkways. Southdale was introverted: the exterior walls were blank, and all the activity was focussed on the inside. Suburban shopping centers had always been in the open, with stores connected by outdoor passageways. Gruen had the idea of putting the whole complex under one roof, with air-conditioning for the summer and heat for the winter. Almost every other major shopping center had been built on a single level, which made for punishingly long walks. Gruen put stores on two levels, connected by escalators and fed by two-tiered parking. In the middle he put a kind of town square, a 'garden court' under a skylight, with a fishpond, enormous sculpted trees, a twenty-one-foot cage filled with bright-colored birds, balconies with hanging plants, and a caf?. The result was a sensation...

"One person who wasn't dazzled by Southdale was Frank Lloyd Wright. 'What is this, a railroad station or a bus station?' he asked, when he came for a tour."

[Among Gruen's plans for New York City? Burying roads underground and running pipes and wires along the upper sides of "tunnels, above a catwalk, accessible to engineers and painted brilliant colors to delight rather than appall the eye."]

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