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Machine for Shopping: American Postwar Malls, Culture, and the Consumption of Commercial Urbanism


This thesis presents three case studies: a modern mall, NorthPark Center, and two contemporary shopping malls, The Americana at Brand and Crystals at CityCenter. These examples problematize aspects of American culture and consumption.

Each mall is analyzed in the context of its retail history, the intention of the architecture, the art, the references to other buildings, places, or times, and, lastly, how the commercial mall purports to embody positive forms of urbanity in an idealized city center.

I argue that there is a mythic nostalgia for a communal past that never existed but is regardless continually updated and presented as an amalgamation of high art architecture and commercial architecture in the built environment. The examples reveal particular characteristics of American culture from the landscape and beyond the text, the included taxonomy provides visual comparisons of these three malls.

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