I dislike malls. To me, they are the embodiment of many trends and customs that I would prefer to disappear. They are expansive, auto-orientedÂ complexes that are environmentally wasteful, economically unsustainable (how do you repurpose an old mall?), and they perpetuate the socioeconomic divide between rich and poor. It is for those reasons that I will always prefer shopping in an urban area, on a city street, to visiting a mall. On the street, you interact with all kinds of people, and not everyone is there to shop.
That said, I have a hard time avoiding malls. I live in Florida, which isn’t without its share of malls. And some malls are better than others, but generally, they aren’t inspiring – even the nice ones. Over time, I’ve developed a list of the malls that I think have managed to best downplay their ‘mallness’ while controlling their ambiance, so that the experience is pleasant, rather than a production. The non-surprise is that they are all luxury malls. With high sales-per-square-foot, mall owners and designers can afford to pay attention to the details.
Best historical “mall” – Highland Park Village in Dallas (1931)
I love Highland Park Village because it is meshed quite seamlessly into the fabric of the surrounding neighborhood. Highland Park is actually a separate municipality from Dallas, but is landlocked by the larger city. The shopping village is made up of several buildings that are spaced widely enough to allow vehicle traffic, but they are by no means separated by a sea of parking spaces and empty pavement. The sidewalks are generous, and interspersed with Loro Piana and Carolina Herrera is a grocery store, a movie theatre, and several locally-owned boutiques that are as highly regarded as their worldwide fashion counterparts. The architecture is unique too…all old mediterranean, common in Texas from that era.
Tenants: Anne Fontaine, Anthropologie, Avant Garden, Bang & Olufsen, Beretta Gallery, Bibbentuckers, Cafe Pacific, Calame Jewelers, Carolina Herrera, Celebrity Cafe & Bakery, Centennial Liquor, Chanel, Cole Haan, Cooter’s Village Camera, Dallas Healthy Aging, Deno’s of Highland Park, E. 61st, Escada, Frederic Fekkai, Gerald Tomlin Antiques, Hadleigh’s, Harry Winston, Haynsworth Photo, Hermes, Jimmy Choo, Judith Ripka, Kiehl’s, LAFCO New York, Leggiadro of Dallas, Loro Piana, Madison, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, Mi Cocina, Molto Formaggio, Nail Sweet, Noble Boutique, Patrizio, Peeper’s, Pockets Menswear, Q Custom Clothier, Ralph Lauren, Robert Talbott, Rugby, Scoop NYC, Scoop Men’s, St.John, St.Micheal Women’s Exchange, Starbucks, Stephanie Anne, The UPS Store, Tom Thumb, Tory Burch, Village Barber Shop, Vince, Warren Barron Bridal, Who’s Who Burgers, William Noble Rare Jewels, and Williams-Sonoma.
Best midcentury “mall” (tie) – Bal Harbour Shops in Miami (1965)
Jeffery Guterman photo from Flickr
This is a space that I have actually been to in person. It is located in the village of Bal Harbour, which is one of the many suburb/bedroom communities of Miami. The mall was built with the intention of serving the local affluence of the area, so Neiman Marcus has been a lifetime tenant (the chain’s first store outside of the Dallas area). The design is unique – two levels, and entirely enclosed from the surrounding streets, but is open-air through the entire length of the courtyard. And all of the walkways are punctuated by life-size modern art installations and cooled by ceiling fans. In the middle of the courtyard, ‘below the sky,’ are koi ponds, which are both beautiful and pleasant to listen to. The entire effect is exactly what you might expect in Miami…very tropical and very relaxing.
Tenants: Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, 100% Capri, A Pea in the Pod, Addict, Agent Provocateur, American Express Travel, Anne Fontaine, Audemars Piguet, Bonpoint, Books & Books, Bottega Veneta, Brioni, Brooks Brothers, Brunello Cucinelli, Bvlgari, Calypso St. Barth, Carolina Herrera, Carpaccio, Cartier, Celine, Cesare Paciotti, Chanel, Chanel Joaillerie, Chloe, Chopard, Christofle, Custo Barcelona, D&G, D’Aven, David Yurman, De Beers, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Domenico Vacca, DVF, Elie Tahari, Emilio Pucci, Emporio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Escada, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Futuretronics, Galtrucco, Georg Jensen, Giorgio Armani, Guiseppe Zanotti, Graff, Gucci, Harry Winston, Hermes, Hublot, Intermix, Jimmy Choo, Judith Ripka, Just Cavalli, La Goulue, Lacoste, Lanvin, Lea’s Tea Room & Bistro, Loro Piana, Louis Vuitton, Luca Luca, Lulu, Lulu Couture, Marc Jacobs, MaxMara, Michael Kors, Mini Oxygene, Miu Miu, Nanette Lepore, Opera Gallery, Optica, Oscar de la Renta, Oxygene, Paul & Shark, Piaget, Pomellato, Prada, Pratesi, Ralph Lauren, Red Market Salon, Roberto Cavalli, Roger Vivier, Santa Fe News & Espresso, Santa Maria Novella, Segafredo Zanetti Espresso, Sergio Rossi, St.John, The Nail Spa at Bal Harbour, The Newsstand by Books & Books, Thomas Pink, Tiffany & Co., Tod’s, Tory Burch, Tourneau, Trina Turk, Valentino, Van Cleef & Arpels, Vera, Versace, Vilebrequin, Wolford, and Yves Saint Laurent.
Best midcentury “mall” (tie) – Americana Manhasset on Long Island (1956)
Damien Morys Photo photo from Flickr
Like Highland Park, I have only seen this area in photographs. It is an open-air mall where you can drive your car right up to the storefront, much like Highland Park…only the entire center is a rectangle with pedestrian-only pathways inside (like Highland Park turned inside out). Still, it presents an interesting hybrid. The surrounding neighborhood isn’t pedestrian-oriented, but like in most cities and with most stores and restaurants not in a mall setup, you can drive right up to the store you need to visit and the entire trip is less of a production. No garages, no long walks across hot pavement. And no entering the mall through a department store only to get to one within the main plaza. This architecture is all modern, with each boutique having a unique design.
Tenants: Anne Fontaine, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Bottega Veneta, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Chrome Hearts (at Hirshleifer’s), CH Carolina Herrera, Cipollini Pronto Cafe, Cipollini Trattoria & Bar, Coach, Cole Haan, Concierge Store, Dani Lingerie, David Yurman, Dior, Donna Karan, Ermenegildo Zegna, Escada, Estee Lauder, Etro, Fendi, Frette, Gap, Gap Kids, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Hermes, Hirshleifer’s, Hirshleifer’s ETC, Hirshleifer’s Shoe Salon, HSBC Bank, Ilori, Intermix, Jimmy Choo, J.Mendel, Juicy Couture, Lacoste, Leggiadro, London Jewelers, London Jewelers Watch Salon, Loro Piana, Louis Vuitton, Malandrino, Martin Viette Home & Garden Shop, MaxMara, Michael Kors, Morgenthal Frederics, Oscar de la Renta, Plumm Cosmetique & Apothicaire, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Salvatore Ferragamo, Shoe Box, Sneakerology Exit 36, Spring Flowers, St.John, Theory, Tiffany & Co., Toku Modern Asian Restaurant, Tory Burch, Van Cleef & Arpels, Versace, Vilebrequin, Wolford.
Overall, I think these shopping centers are superior. They blend the enclosed mall with varied outdoor experiences. And, they offer features and amenities that aren’t usually found in traditional malls, which have barriers to entry and other factors that make them more of a hassle to visit.
Technically, if it’s not contained in a large building, then it’s a shopping center, not a mall. I grew up in Manhasset. When I was a kid, the Americana Shopping Center was a reasonable place to shop. I used to go there all the time with my mother. We ate lunch in the Altman’s that was the America’s anchor. I hung out at the J.J. Newberry’s with my friends in junior high, buying Lip Smackers and Maybelline Kissing Potion. Now it’s just a mini-Madison Avenue. Too bad.
That may be true, but I think most people see them as all the same – a shopping destination. I think I like it because it seems interesting architecturally…although you’re right it does cater to a specific and small segment of the population. Thanks for reading!