July 17, 2015

Shopping Malls were the idea of a socialist

...And he hated how they turned out. It's weird how things that came from one frame of reference can end up somewhere else entirely. Just like the pledge of allegiance was a socialist creation, so too was the idea of shopping malls.
Today shopping malls are seen as culprits in the rise of American car culture and the decline of walkable downtowns. But the inspiration for the shopping mall is in fact the town center of Vienna. Gruen, an Austrian Jewish architect born Viktor David Grünbaum, immigrated to New York with $8 in his pocket, and when he designed the first enclosed shopping centers in the mid-1950s, he envisioned a communal gathering like the one he knew back home, with a lively mix of commerce, art and entertainment.

...A socialist who hated cars (“Their threat to human life and health is just as great as the exposed sewer,” he once said), Gruen designed the development with long promenades and parking lots purposely built far away to encourage walking. In drawing Southdale’s original plan, Gruen imagined a medical center, schools and residences, not just a parade of glitzy stores.
Not surprisingly Gruen rued how malls turned out.
But Gruen never imagined that these mega-structures he had envisioned as town plazas would contribute to the suburban sprawl that he despised, and to the demise of the urban high street.

“I am often called the father of the shopping mall,” he once said, reflecting on his career two years before his death in 1978. “I would like to take this opportunity to disclaim paternity once and for all. I refuse to pay alimony to those bastard developments. They destroyed our cities.”
So sad. Suburbs, commerce, and supporting an increased demand for cars - it seems socialists are completely unaware of the notion of unintended consequences. Sometimes that's a good thing. I'm not saying that Gruen's original ideas behind the mall were bad. It sounds like a nifty mixed use concept. Except, as a socialist, you know the next step would be to somehow layer in some sort of indoctrination of people. I'm glad that didn't work out for them.

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