May 24, 7 pm
Anette Baldauf

Shopping Town: Victor Gruen and the Shopping Mall


Maybe, if we know more about where the concept of the shopping mall comes from, how it was developed and how it is eventually used, we might be able to disentangle the complex mixture of pleasure, profits and disgust that has accompanied this building type during its turbulent life-span. Today, Victor Gruen is often cited as the inventor of the mall. According to legend, the Jewish émigré from Austria attempted to translate the concept of the Western European city into the US-American suburbs. In the mid fifties, he developed so-called Shopping Towns; he inserted massive shopping machines into decentered suburbscapes, where they were supposed to strengthen civic life and structure the mono-functional agglomerations of suburban sprawl. As distinct manifestations of the post war area shopping malls now offer insights into cold war anxieties and consumer utopias and the distinct ideas about gender and race that underline the American Dream.

Anette Baldauf is a sociologist and currently visiting professor at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Her research focuses on postindustrial city formations, pop culture and everyday life, feminism and social movements. … >>