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The death of the US shopping mall

中国日报网 2014-10-08 11:21




Randall Park Mall, North Randall, Ohio (architecturalafterlife.com)



Born in the 1950s, these temples of commerce were symbols of the US consumer culture – but many are now dying out. Jonathan Glancey takes a look.

Shopping malls are not meant to be sinister. And, yet, in 1977, George A Romero chose to film sequences of Dawn of the Dead, his cult horror zombie movie, in a deserted mall. Shorn of life and light, the great echoing chambers of the enclosed shopping centre took on a very eerie tone indeed. Curiously, Romero’s set design has much in common with photographs of the ever-increasing number of abandoned malls strewn across the United States from California to New England. There are well over a hundred of these lifeless concrete and steel behemoths sprawled beside freeways on the fringes of far-flung American suburbs.

Economic decline in certain areas − notably the mid-West − combined with an accelerating trend towards online shopping and new forms of urban shopping centres have pushed the once seemingly invincible and all-American shopping mall into decline. Many are thriving, and being renovated and extended, yet ‘ghost malls’ are fast becoming the ‘ghost towns’ of the early 21st Century, and photographers have begun to see them as fascinating, if decidedly disturbing ruins.

Inside, their acres of kitsch design seem even sorrier than a seaside funfair out-of-season. All that marble, those wall tiles, the broad, Hollywood-like stairs − leading nowhere today − and sorry details like a sign on a wall of the Crestwood Court mall, St Louis, reading “Rest Easy”, is both a little trashy and rather poignant.

All the more poignant, in fact, because the first US malls were not meant to have been sited miles from anywhere and reached only by big, air-conditioned automobiles with automatic transmission and power-everything. No, Victor Gruen, the ‘father of the shopping mall’ meant them to be the core around which new settlements would cluster, with apartments, clinics, schools and, one day soon enough, all the facilities and life that go together to make thriving urban settlements.

Born in Vienna in 1903, Gruen was a lifelong socialist who trained as an architect in his home city before abandoning it for New York at the time of the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938. Gruen went on to design the world’s first fully enclosed shopping mall, the Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota. It opened in 1956, the year Elvis first broke into the charts, with Heartbreak Hotel, Norma Jean Mortenson changed her name to Marilyn Monroe, IBM invented the hard disk drive, and Fidel Castro and Che Guevara landed in Cuba.

The American way

Gruen’s homes, schools, lakes and parks remained a pipe dream as Edina, Minnesota and, subsequently, the US as a whole went on a prolonged air-conditioned shopping spree in buildings that waxed ever bigger and yet more kitsch. The mall became a place to hang out as well as to shop, a central part of contemporary US culture and a model for much of the rest of a world keen on emulating an American way of life.

There had, of course, been malls of a sort long before the Southdale Center, beginning with Trajan’s Market in Ancient Rome, built around 100AD by Apollodorus of Damascus, a Syrian-Greek architect and engineer, while the great souks of Aleppo, Istanbul and Damascus itself were nothing less than spectacular shopping centres. What was new about the US malls is that they were fully enclosed, inward-looking structures designed to be serviced by the car, encouraged by relaxed tax and planning laws and set in isolated locations.

In the mid-1990s, US malls were being built at a rate of 140 a year. The brakes went on in 2007, the first year in half-a-century that no new malls were built in America: recession had bitten deep into the US economy. Now, malls began to close, although some had become unpopular for reasons other than purely economic ones.

When the 35-year-old Cloverleaf Mall in Chesterfield, Virginia, closed in 2007, the Chesterfield Observer noted that while it had been a popular hangout for families in the 1970s and '80s, “That all changed in the 1990s. Cloverleaf’s best customers, women, began staying away from the mall, fearful of the youth who were beginning to congregate there. People [said a former Cloverleaf manager] started seeing kids with huge baggy pants and chains hanging off their belts, and people were intimidated, and they would say there were gangs.”

The shopping mall had long lost its 1950s atmosphere of hedonistic, all-American innocence. And, as many became redundant, so they were abandoned like giant refuse thrown from even bigger automobiles. And, because they had been built on an increasingly ambitious scale and are essentially giant boxes with vast rooms inside shot through with miles of mechanical and electrical services, these were never going to be easy structures to convert to new uses, even though many Americans have suggested they become giant leisure centres: bowling alleys, funfairs and casinos. This is not such a bad idea: the demolition of such huge buildings could only appear to be a case of conspicuous consumption and wastefulness on a truly titanic scale.

Today, the largest malls are in very different parts of the world. The biggest of all is the New South China Mall, Dongguan, covering a floor area twenty times that of St Peter’s in Rome, and well over twice of the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania, the biggest in the US. Among the top ten largest malls in the world are two, perhaps surprisingly, in Iran, while even Bangladesh with a GDP per capita of $1,851 boasts a new mall far bigger than Pennsylvania’s “King of Prussia” (the same figure for the US is $51,749 according to the World Bank).

Shop horror

The world has gone on a gigantic spending spree, and yet as the experience of America’s ‘ghost malls’ shows, fashions do indeed come and go. Soon enough, and just as no one knows how to make use of Ancient Egyptian temples today, shopping malls will become the stuff of archaeology and folklore. A place for the living dead, too, perhaps, although the mall George Romero chose to film Dawn of the Dead in - the Monroeville Mall, near Pittsburgh, opened in 1969 − is doing well. It was expanded and renovated in 2013-14, yet still revels in the roles it has played not just in Dawn of the Dead, but in the 1983 movie Flashdance, too, as well as in 1984’s The Boy Who Loved Trolls and in Steven King’s horror novel, Christine.

As a building type, and social and economic phenomenon, the shopping mall has a way to go, and yet it has already spawned its own wrecks and ruins. These tell us more than enough about the ways we have chosen to spend and live over the past half-century. Looking at photographs of abandoned malls, those ways can certainly be unsettling, and even just a little horrifying.

这些诞生于上世纪50年代的商业神庙曾是美国消费文化的象征——而如今却在持续衰亡。英国广播公司(BBC)记者乔纳森·格朗西(Jonathan Glancey)带你走进衰败的美国购物中心。

提到商场,你绝不会联想到“阴森”和“破败”,但在1977年,美国导演乔治·A·罗梅罗(George A Romero)为了拍摄丧尸片《活死人黎明》(Dawn of the Dead),特地将一个购物中心打造成令人毛骨悚然的“鬼城”。了无生机、昏暗无光、封闭的商场里传来的阵阵回响,令人毛骨悚然。时隔近30年,罗梅罗的片场布置似乎在从加州到新英格兰一路的荒废商场照片中重现了。在美国偏远郊区,有一百多家空荡荡的钢筋混凝土巨物蔓生于高速公路旁。


往里瞧,内部设计似乎比过时的滨海乐园更不堪。那些大理石、墙砖、好莱坞式的大楼梯在今天早就被淘汰了。而像挂在克雷斯特伍德购物中心(the Crestwood Court mall)和圣路易斯购物中心(St Louis)的“请放心”标识更是显得有点多余,但看着又觉心酸。

更让人痛心的是购物中心的选址。事实上,第一代美国购物中心不应该只为开得起豪车,有钱有势之人服务。不是这样的。“购物中心之父“维克多·古鲁恩(Victor Gruen)表示,新住宅区的购物中心要有凝聚力,要能吸引公寓、诊所、学校在此安家,在不远的将来,还要能招揽其他设施和人员到此落户,打造一个个欣欣向荣的城市住宅区。

1903年出生于维也纳的古鲁恩是社会主义的终生实践者。在1938年纳粹德国吞并奥地利以前,他在家乡学习建筑设计,后来被迫逃亡到纽约。古鲁恩随后设计了世界上第一个全封闭式的购物中心——位于明尼苏达州伊代纳市(Edina)的南溪谷购物中心(Southdale Center),并于1956年开张。那一年,猫王埃尔维斯凭借一曲Heartbreak Hotel缔创了他首支冠军曲,诺玛·简·莫泰森(Norma Jeane Mortenson)改名玛丽莲·梦露(Marilyn Monroe),IBM发明了硬盘,菲德尔·卡斯特罗和切·格瓦拉回到古巴。



当然有比南溪谷购物中心资历还老的购物中心。首当其冲的就是古罗马时期的图拉真市场(Trajan’s Market),它是由叙利亚的希腊人大马士革的阿波罗多洛斯(Apollodorus of Damascus)主持设计。阿勒坡(Aleppo)、伊斯坦布尔和大马士革的的露天大市场也毫不逊色于豪华大商场。美国购物中心的新颖之处在于它的全封闭式构造,要驱车前往,有优惠的税收和计划法支持,位于孤立地区。


2007年,运营三十五载的三叶草购物中心(Cloverleaf Mall)关门。切斯特菲尔德观察者(the Chesterfield Observer)指出,这座购物中心曾在上世纪七八十年代繁荣一时,是家人朋友聚会的主要场所。“但到了90年代,一切都变了。三叶草的主要顾客为女性,而她们因为害怕聚集于此的年轻人而远离了商场。”曾就职于三叶草购物中心的管理人员表示,“那时候会经常见到一些年轻人,他们穿着松松垮垮的裤子,裤头上挂着粗粗大大的链子,游荡在商场里。顾客有些害怕,会说那些少年是帮派里的人。”


今天,大型购物中心遍布世界各地。广东省东莞市的新华南MALL(New South China Mall)是世界上最大的购物中心,建筑面积是罗马圣彼得广场(St Peter’s)的20倍,是全美最大的购物中心——普鲁士王购物中心(King of Prussia Mall)的两倍多。没想到的是,世界前十大购物中心有两个在伊朗。人均国内生产总值1851美元的孟加拉国有着比宾夕法尼亚州的普鲁士王购物中心还大的新商场。(而根据世界银行数据,美国人均国内生产总值为5.1749万美元)


整个世界仍处在消费热潮之中。只是美国的“鬼城”告诉我们,潮流来了又走,也许过段时间,就像是我们弄不明白古埃及神庙到底有何用途一样,这些购物中心也只剩下些考古的和民俗研究价值了。或许还真成了给活死人住的地方。虽然罗梅罗当初拍摄《活死人黎明》的门罗维尔购物中心(the Monroeville Mall)现在还运营得不错,该购物中心临近匹兹堡,于1969年开业,2013-2014年得到扩建和整修。至今,它不仅享受着电影《活死人黎明》所带来的效应,还因在1983年电影《闪舞》(Flashdance)、1984年电影《爱巨怪的男孩》(The Boy Who Loved Trolls)和斯蒂芬·金(Steven King)的恐怖小说《克里斯汀》(Christine)出境而颇受关注。


(译者 Juliecy 编辑 丹妮)


在美国,购物中心已死? 在美国,购物中心已死?



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