MallS and Dying Streets
derelict condition of town centers has been at the top of mayors
and planners agendas for several years. After cars had taken hold of the
cities, streets became highways, and public open spaces turned into parking
lots. The upgrading of lifestyle and increasing private transportation have
decentralized population, thus speeding up suburbanization. Individual freedom
of movement causes the scattering of urban developments in a self-perpetuating
“magic” cycle: a continuous abandonment of residents towards the suburbs; a
parallel move of employment and commercial enterprises; and the reproduction of
suburban shopping malls. All these cause financial bankruptcy of small stores
in the open commercial streets. City cores become a hotbed for weak
populations, thereby causing property taxes to drop, and accordingly - a lack
of profitability for entrepreneur investment.
total denial of the past during the 60s and 70s created a deep rift in the
continuum of architectural heritage. Massive destruction of urban fabric, in
order to rebuild large-scale structures, has changed the reference to the urban
outdoors. The street and the square - the hub of activity for generations, have
lost their ability to create social interaction - the essence of urban
experience. Efforts to reawaken the city centers by building pedestrian streets
have proven unsuccessful. Car owners, the better-off sector, prefer to head
towards the luxurious air-conditioned shopping malls which
suburban mall developed in the U.S.
during the 1950s as an alternative to the urban commercial street. Available
and relatively inexpensive land enabled large structures with spacious shops.
The internal organization of the mall is based on a
repeated formula that was developed by Victor Gruen.
The idea is based on the location of anchor stores at
the ends, and smaller stores in-between. The type of store and its size, the
relationship and location of the rest areas and entertainment functions are well-calculated, and operated by a central management.
the success of the shopping malls is a critical factor in the decay of inner
cities, attempts have been made to return shoppers to
the streets by planting malls within the city cores. However, these efforts
usually achieve opposite results: the enclosed structure with its impervious
facades, rather than encouraging a fruitful interaction with the dying streets,
“sucks” the shoppers
into a one-dimensional synthetic environment.
attempts to develop an open-envelope mall which meshes
organically with the urban fabric have also had little success, as its
economic strength poses an unfair economic fight against the smaller shops in
the street. Renewed interest in traditional urban generators has brought about
attempts to “beat” the mall by emphasizing the street’s multi-facet identity,
which stems from its authentic variety of functions and activities, as opposed
to the ever-repeated one-dimensional mall space.
this context, it is worth mentioning two street types that had developed over
thousands of years in response to climatic conditions: the partially-canopied
arcade street (the Cardo in Jerusalem), and the
fully-canopied street (Emmanuel Gallery in Milan), whose images are repeatedly
adapted by mall planners.
impasse which the grim urban reality has reached
suggests that the street and the mall cannot live together. The bitter
trial-and-error process that has tried to revitalize the city by cosmetic means
points, rather, to a
programmatic solution. The economic success of the shopping mall
indicates that a combination of economic solutions with social needs in a
planned physical layout may have positive results. Since the strength of the
shopping mall lies in its economic entity, while the advantages of the street
lie in its historical, social, and emotional significance, the solution should
be based on a hybrid of the two - an open street that is planned,
organized and operated by a central management.
malls are not new. Some forms of likeness to Emanuel Gallery have proven
themselves in various places: the Manchester
arcade, the Cardiff arcade, and Calatravas open mall in Toronto. The principle is that once a section
of a commercial area with a unique urban characteristic is allocated, it can be
organized, redesigned and operated under the unified
management of the local municipality, the owners, and the community.