Alexandra Lange’s “Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall”

August 12, 2022

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Architectural critic Alexandra Lange joins Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to discuss her latest book, Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall. As its title suggests, the study explores the beginnings and development of the American shopping mall, rewarding our nostalgic gaze with a fascinating look at the mall as architectural challenge and sociological phenomenon. As a response to the changing relationships to consumerism and urban space in the United States in the post-World War II period, the shopping mall soared in popularity in large part because it offered at once a space for consumerist escape and nearly complete environmental and social control. It shaped its own social culture, shot through with all of the prejudices of the world outside but with the promise of experiential transformation. In Meet Me by the Fountain, the shopping mall emerges as a uniquely postmodern public space grounded in the perennial human longing for social connection, and the nostalgia we feel for that space in the present demonstrates its ongoing appeal, even in the present, when it is considered to be, if not dead, all but certainly dying.

Also, Elvia Wilk, author of the essay collection Death by Landscape, returns to recommend both Austrian author Marlen Haushofer’s 1963 novel The Wall, available in Shaun Whiteside’s English translation, and Ned Beauman’s new novel Venomous Lumpsucker.