100 years of growth of the American shopping mall

100 years of growth of the American shopping mall
The Atlantic Terminal Mall in Brooklyn / © Craig Warga/Bloomberg

The shopping mall was an American creation of the 20th century, a twist on the more intimate Old World market sized to American proportions, built to satisfy American disposable incomes and designed with space for our many American cars.
It has its own traceable lineage, from the earliest planned shopping centers to the first regional hubs for shoppers traveling by car, to the novel post-war enclosed malls of Victor Gruen (a man whose name became synonymous with that hypnotic effect that propels us, zombie-like, from Cinnabon to Brookstone to the Yankee Candle store).
Even as the old-school indoor mall has waned in popularity of late, still we’ve innovated on the idea. Big-box stores led to power centers. A backlash to the impersonal architecture of massive malls bred in their place “lifestyle centers,” modern malls disguised as neighborhoods.