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Shopping Town

Designing the City in Suburban America

2017
Author:

Victor Gruen
Anette Baldauf, Editor
Translated by Anette Baldauf

Shopping Town

For the first time in English, the “father of the shopping mall” tells his life story

Shopping Town is the long overdue account of the father of the shopping mall, whose work fundamentally altered the course of city development. Highlighting Victor Gruen’s sense of humor and reflections on the postwar transformation of American cities, it embeds his experiences and perspectives in a wider social and political context while revealing his problematic place in American architectural culture.

Victor Gruen may well have been the most influential architect of the twentieth century. He invented the mall.

Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

Victor Gruen was one of the twentieth century’s most influential architects and is regarded as the father of the U.S. shopping mall. In spring 1979, less than a year before his death, he began reconstructing his life story. Now available in English for the first time, Shopping Town is the long overdue account of a man whose work fundamentally altered the course of city development.

Shopping Town opens in Vienna in 1938 with the Anschluss—the turning point in Gruen’s life—as he narrowly escaped the Nazi regime. A few years later, in the suburbs of postwar America, the Jewish refugee sought to reproduce the vitality of Vienna’s city center and invented the commercial apparatus now known as the shopping mall. Gruen’s Southdale Mall in Edina, Minnesota, was the first fully enclosed shopping center in America. He then translated the concept to economically neglected city centers, setting the path for pedestrian zones and fighting passionately for an urban ideal without compromise.

Highlighting Gruen’s sense of humor as well as reflections on the complex forces that sustained the postwar transformation of American cities, Shopping Town embeds Gruen’s experiences and perspectives in a wider social and political context while helping us understand his problematic place in American architectural culture. With afterwords by his son and daughter, Shopping Town closes with Anette Baldauf’s richly insightful essay on the legacy of Victor Gruen.

Shopping Town

Victor Gruen (1903–1980) was an architect and planner who specialized in a range of retail landscapes. He was the author of The Heart of Our Cities and Shopping Towns US.

Anette Baldauf is professor of epistemology and methodology at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria. She is the author or coauthor of several books in German.

Shopping Town

Victor Gruen may well have been the most influential architect of the twentieth century. He invented the mall.

Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

This is an extraordinary publication: the personal memoir of Victor Gruen, a man who literally shaped suburban America, combined with poignant reflections by his children and the insights of a scholar of the built environment. Rarely has such a major transformation of the physical landscape been so closely linked to an individual. A fascinating life that makes for an enthralling read.

Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America*

Going far beyond architecture books’ typical scope of buildings, events, and biographical information, Shopping Town explains how major buildings result from ongoing interaction among business owners, public officials, and designers. In the process, readers learn how a penniless refugee from Nazi-occupied Austria built one of the most successful architectural practices in the United States, while simultaneously inventing the nation’s first air-conditioned shopping malls and pedestrianized streets.

Alexander Garvin, Yale University, author of What Makes a Great City

Shopping Town

Contents
Preface: Why Victor Gruen?
Anette Baldauf
Book Project
Victor Gruen
Introduction
1. Vienna 1938
2. Flashback
3. Discovering America
4. The Big Breakthrough
5. The Storm
6. Architectura
7. Environmental Planning
Epilogue
Afterword
Michael Gruen
More About My Mother
Peggy Gruen
Consumed? The Heritage of Victor Gruen
Anette Baldauf
Notes
Index