Virtual Memories Show 490:
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“A lot of people try to think about the geography of the mall in the context of the outside. The outside is not important. Ignore the outside and get into the center and work your way out from there.”
With her fantastic new book, Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of The Mall (Bloomsbury USA), architecture critic Alexandra Lange explores a subject near and dear to my NJ-native heart: The Mall! We talk about the evolving role of malls in modern America, the various snobberies that look down on malls and how she sidestepped them for her book, the social forces (suburbanization, car-centricity, racism & more) that led to the proliferation of malls, and what our relationships with malls say about us. We also get into the Mallwave phenomenon, the die-off of malls and what may come after, where kids congregate nowadays, her pandemic-cancelled trip to the Mall of America, and the jarring wrongness of the American Dream Mall. Plus we discuss her history as an architecture critic, what she’d love to see in a mall (& outside of one), my occasional dreams of malls that don’t exist, her favorite ’80s-era store, and more! Give it a listen! And go read Meet Me by the Fountain!
“One of the most interesting things I learned is that malls have periods like any historical form of architecture”
“Malls should be in more direct dialogue with their environments, both physically but also in terms of the connections between the mall’s businesses and the needs of the people near them.”
Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!
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About our Guest
Alexandra Lange is an architecture critic and the author of four previous books, including The Design of Childhood. Her writing has also appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Magazine, the New York Times, and T Magazine, and she has been a featured writer at Design Observer, an opinion columnist at Dezeen, and the architecture critic for Curbed. She holds a Ph.D. in twentieth-century architecture history from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and has taught design criticism there and at the School of Visual Arts. She lives in Brooklyn.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Alexandra by Mark Wickens. It’s on my instagram.