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Rock Street, San Francisco

    In the article “The Terrazzo Jungle,” the author explains how Victor Gruen, an Austrian architect who immigrated to the United States, invented the shopping mall, and created a great symbol of American life. The author stated that Gruen began designing innovative store fronts in New York, and later designed a large shopping mall with innovation features, such as being enclosed with heat and air conditioning, having stores facing inwards, a garden court with trees, and two levels to reduce walking distance. The article concluded that Gruen’s approach has been copied all over the world, and that the shopping mall has become a symbol of American design and life.    In my view, the article revealed much more about American culture than the history of the modern shopping mall. The article quoted Gruen referring to his mall design as a “gigantic shopping machine.” It also quoted a journalist of the time saying the mall was “part of the American Way.” These quotes are significant because they show the American value of idealism. First, the mall was designed to be the perfect shopping place: easy parking, enclosed environment, escalators, two levels, and inward facing stores. This is ideal: an efficient “machine” system, and shoppers happy to spend more time and money in one convenient place. The author also states that the mall “simulates” a real downtown, but without the dirt and noise. This is also considered more ideal because it could offer a dynamic, clean, metropolitan place that most American cities could not. The criticism of Frank Lloyd Wright that “You’ve got a garden court that has all the evils of the village street and none of its charm” is interesting because he seems to understand the essential “charm” of any place comes from it being natural rather than simulated. However, the modern attitude of removing any inconveniences, or problems by creating an artificial environment is more desirable than uncontrolled, but natural settings. Thus, the history of the shopping mall also shows that Americans prefer an “ideal” place even if it is not real or natural.

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