Andres Lepik and Vera Simone Bader’s World of Malls: Architectures of Consumption explores the relatively recent development of shopping malls. With other contributing authors, Lepik and Bader examine examples of malls around the United States, with a focus on their architecture, the connection to consumerism, and the future development of malls.
Bader notes that “as an independent building typology, the shopping mall has not yet gained entry into the history of architecture…[despite] shap[ing] cities worldwide” (pg. 12). The shopping mall appeared a mere 60 years ago, making it a recent archetype, but one which has spread quickly. The authors note that malls typically are within an urban area, or just outside the limits, bringing people in to participate in a particular consumer experience. But do all malls feel and look the same on the inside? What about the outside? These are the kinds of issues which World of Malls explores, becoming the first study on malls from an architectural perspective. One author even makes the argument that “in our increasingly fragmented culture, shopping, which consists of strolling through zones of consumption dotted by occasional purchases, is one of the last conventions we experience as a community” (pg. 237). Scattered throughout are profiles of malls, featuring photos and descriptions. The book concludes with a piece on the future of malls, advocating for the repurposing of malls which are abandoned, as the buildings are often large and adaptable.
Most people have been to a mall at some point. They have become central aspects of every day life, serving as a means of consumerism and a form of exercise or entertainment. Featuring stores for shopping and restaurants for eating, the mall is a social place as much as it is consumerist. Yet little attention is paid to the buildings and design of these places, as well as how common they have become. With the advent of online shopping, are malls becoming irrelevant? What will happen to the buildings if, or when, malls become obsolete? World of Malls begins exploring such important questions. But, for now, throngs of people will continue their weekly pilgrimage to their local mall to participate in what has become an American pastime.