The Life and Death of an American Archetype: The Shopping Mall and the Suburbs

Open Access
Dallessandro, Anthony Robert
Graduate Program:
Master of Architecture
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 30, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Darla V Lindberg, Thesis Advisor
  • Rebecca Lynn Henn, Thesis Advisor
  • James Newton Wines, Thesis Advisor
  • architecture
  • shopping mall
  • suburbs
  • suburbia
  • redevelopment
The original intent of the shopping mall was to organize American suburban development. However, fifty years after the advent of the mall suburban sprawl a central talking point of architects and urban planners. This thesis aims to examine the affects the shopping mall has had on suburban development and if it aided or combated the chaos of suburbia. In today’s suburbia the shopping mall is dead. The mall set out to be a place in suburbia. However due to new technologies and an overproduction of the mall archetype the shopping mall quickly lost its individuality and uniqueness. Newer malls took away consumers from older malls and eventually led to their failure. The Internet and e-commerce has also hurt the mall. By performing the actions of the mall more effectively the Internet acts as a filter of “artificial place”. This allows the mall to be removed from our built environment after its time has passed. Now that the life of the shopping mall is over it allows architects and planners to look back and examine its effect on suburbia. It also presents the opportunity to start over on these greyfield sites. This is the chance to address the changing needs of suburbia on these sites. Shifts in housing desires can be addressed through redevelopment of dead malls. By addressing the needs of the community the site can be transformed into a true place for suburbanites instead of an artificial place that will need replacing after just a short life span.