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Gladwell on Suburban Malls

Gladwell delivers on this sociological and intellectual view of the American shopping mall.

“Postwar America was an intellectually insecure place, and there was something intoxicating about
Gruen’s sophistication and confidence. That was what took him, so dramatically, from standing at New York Harbor with eight dollars in his pocket to Broadway, to Fifth Avenue, and to the heights of Northland and Southdale. He was a European intellectual, an émigré, and, in the popular mind, the European émigré represented vision, the gift of seeing something grand in the banality of postwar American life. When the European visionary confronted a drab and congested urban landscape, he didn’t tinker and equivocate; he levelled warehouses and buried roadways and came up with a thrilling plan for making things right. “The chief means of travel will be walking,” Gruen said, of his reimagined metropolis. “Nothing like walking for peace of mind.” At Northland, he said, thousands of people would show up, even when the stores were closed, just to walk around. It was exactly like Sunday on the Ringstrasse. With the building of the mall, Old World Europe had come to suburban Detroit.”

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