Meet Us by the Fountain

Roman Mars [00:00:01] This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars. Like many teens in the ’80s, my first job was at the mall. I was 14. I lied about my age. I was a busboy in an Applebee’s style restaurant that no longer exists. On Saturdays, I often worked three shifts in a row, so I witnessed the entire circadian rhythm of the mall. At 8:00, I’d clean windows as the senior citizens in tracksuits powered through the empty halls, passing by shops with their cage doors still rolled down. By midday, the families took over, and my usual job of cleaning glasses and plates involved cleaning up piles of food spilled on the floor. By evening, the teens arrived. They couldn’t afford the restaurant, but I could see them in packs, congregating by the fountain, always ready with an unkind word or some act of cruelty. The mall felt terrible. I hated it. But despite this, on days when I wasn’t working, I had my mom drop me off at the mall. Kids in small towns and suburbs played the hand they’re dealt. And being able to walk around on your own, maybe buying a cassette tape of The Smiths live album at Sam Goody is the best that life has to offer. 

Alexandra Lange [00:01:39] I was not a very cool teen, let me just say. I was a very nerdy teen. 

Roman Mars [00:01:45] This is cool adult and friend of the show, Alexandra Lange. 

Alexandra Lange [00:01:48] I feel like there are a lot of teenage mall scenarios that I did not participate in. Like, I did not meet my first beau at the mall. I did not stroll around with shopping bags, showing off at the mall. None of that. 

Roman Mars [00:02:04] But no teen in the ’80s could completely avoid the gravitational pull of the mall. Alexandra is the author of a new book called Meet Me by the Fountain. 

Alexandra Lange [00:02:14] I think part of the whole argument of this book is really that people are social creatures and that the mall had to be created because the suburbs didn’t really initially think about a space for people to come together. 

Roman Mars [00:02:29] Even though we’re past the heyday of the mall, Alexandra says, “We haven’t seen the death of the mall, even after two and a half years of a global pandemic.” 

Alexandra Lange [00:02:37] I think that people are people and they’re going to want to go back out and get together again. I think we’ve seen that in the tremendous use of parks during the pandemic. And when we can safely gather indoors, people are going to be excited to do that because who wants to go to a park in December? 

Roman Mars [00:02:57] We’re going to talk about how the mall became a ubiquitous part of American culture and what’s happening today as malls across the country start to disappear. Okay, so let’s get down to some basics. What is a mall? What makes something a mall versus other shopping centers that existed before or after? 

Alexandra Lange [00:03:19] Well, a shopping center is outdoors, and a mall is indoors. That’s the most basic thing. A shopping center is a strip mall or a line of stores facing the parking lot with some sort of, like, covering over the space in front of them. Whereas a mall is indoors. And the earliest malls were basically just, like, two shopping strips put together. So, you had a department store at each end, two lines of shops facing each other, and a covered, you know, central aisle that usually had fountains, plants, benches, and other amenities. So, they were really just that super simple kind of eye-shaped plan. 

Roman Mars [00:04:02] And this shape–the long hallway–is where the word “mall” comes from?

Alexandra Lange [00:04:08] That’s right. Yeah. Basically, the name “mall” comes from Pall Mall in London, which is a narrow street where they used to play a kind of bowling game. So, it was this long, narrow, outdoor space where people would come together to play. And so, the “mall” from “Pall Mall” turned into a landscape term for that kind of long, narrow green space. So then when you enclose that long, narrow space under a roof, it is another kind of mall. So, the mall in Washington is also a mall from the same origin, even though we don’t really think about a shopping mall and the mall in Washington in the sense. 

Roman Mars [00:04:51] Right. That place with the reflecting pool and the Lincoln on one side–that’s the capital mall. 

Alexandra Lange [00:04:57] Yeah, Lincoln is the anchor store of the National Mall. 

Roman Mars [00:05:01] He’s the Macy’s of the Capitol Mall. So, Victor Gruen is credited as the father of the mall. What was he trying to do? What was he trying to make? 

Alexandra Lange [00:05:11] So Gruen was an émigré from Austria–fled the Nazis to the U.S. in the late 1930s. And he had really strong memories of the kind of charming streets of Vienna, where there are cafes, you know, people gather at fountains, and there’s this whole rich outdoor life. So, he came to America. He initially designed these very glamorous stores in Manhattan. And then he was taken up by some department store executives, who were like, “Move to California. Design our department stores.” So, he started designing these freestanding department stores, and he just felt kind of crushed by the landscape around those department stores. You could go to the store, you could park, and you could go in, but then you couldn’t do anything else. You couldn’t leave and sit in a café. There was nowhere to meet your friends. There was none of the kind of fabric of the city that he found in European cities. So, in the early 1940s, Gruen was living in New York and flying back and forth across the country a lot–like, major, major airplane miles. And he gets stuck in Detroit on a cross-country flight because of fog. And he thinks, “Okay. I’m not going to waste this time I have on the ground in Detroit.” You know, he asked his friends, “Where is life happening in Detroit?” And they said, “Oh, it’s all out in the suburbs.” So, he gets driven around the suburbs, and he finds what he’s been finding elsewhere in the U.S.–that, yes, there are all these new houses and, yes, there are all these strip malls, but there’s nowhere to go. And he thinks that–you know, master salesman–he should be able to sell J. L. Hudson on the idea of building a branch department store and a shopping center in the suburbs. And over the next several years, he does this. He actually sells them on the idea of building four of them–Northland, Southland, Eastland, and Westland. 

Roman Mars [00:07:13] Yeah, I’ve always wondered about that. Why do so many malls have cardinal directions in the name? Like, no matter what city you’re in, they’re all, like, Westfield or Southport. Why is that? 

Alexandra Lange [00:07:22] This is the origin story. And this is one way in which I know, like, the book can be slightly confusing because all the malls sound the same. And it’s like, “Yeah, that was on purpose.” If you’re thinking about your city with the center point downtown, all of these malls wanted to establish where they were in relation to that center point. So, if you were driving north on the main highway out of town, you would encounter Northland, North Park, Northfield, North Dale, or one of these other things. You know, same with south, east, or west. So, all of them are named after the cardinal point, so that people know kind of where to find them in relation to downtown. And then the second part of the word is “Gate” because it’s an entry to the city. It’s “Land” because that was open land before. It’s “Park” because they’re attaching it to a parkway. They have kind of, you know, vague geographical associations. The problem really is that, like, I grew up going to Northgate Mall in Durham, North Carolina, but there’s a much more famous Northgate Mall in Seattle that was one of the first malls. And so, you always have to specify which city you’re talking about. 

Roman Mars [00:08:42] Yeah. And it feels like there’s a certain point where the naming convention becomes just a meaningless convention. One of the fancier malls in downtown San Francisco is called “Westfield.” I don’t think it’s west of anything or a field at all. But, you know, maybe that’s just… I don’t know. Maybe, you know. 

Alexandra Lange [00:09:02] No. No, Westfield is actually a huge mall conglomerate that’s now owned by Australians. But Westfield may be originally named after a Westfield that was in some town. 

Roman Mars [00:09:16] So Gruen designed these malls in Michigan. And he sold the early mall as more of a mixed-use hub. There were shops and department stores but also post offices and doctor’s offices. How long did that idea of a mall last? 

Alexandra Lange [00:09:32] Yeah, Gruen definitely saw the malls as having a community function. And that’s really explicit in a lot of his writings in the 1940 and 1950s. And he wasn’t alone in that. There are other early mall developers–including James Rouse, who comes back into the story later–who also built malls, you know, circa 1955, 1956, that had community spaces. They might have church spaces. They definitely had doctors’ offices. A lot of malls also had nurseries. So, these early malls had a lot more community functions built in, and they were thought of as replacing downtown and having these mixed-use functions. But what happened was–over time, by the mid 1960s–there just start to be more and more malls. And they’re not being designed and created by these original developers. And the developers just want to make money. And they’ve also found that, you know, the mall has been kind of incorporated as an American pastime. And it turns out you don’t need to have a community space for your mall to operate like a community center. It’s just doing that anyway. 

Roman Mars [00:10:54] So the mall is often blamed for killing downtowns. But is this completely fair? Like, was the mall, you know, a reaction to filling a void that was already created by downtowns in decline? Or did they contribute in some way? 

Alexandra Lange [00:11:12] The early malls were really predicated on investment by the department stores. But the department store owners only made that investment after they were already seeing a loss of business downtown. And the families who owned these department stores were frequently major urban philanthropists. They were the ones who, like, paid for new shows at the museum. They were really power players in Minneapolis, Detroit, Philadelphia, and these other cities. But as the suburbs expanded because the houses were built first, they began to draw all of this energy away from downtowns. And initially–and now it seems foolishly in retrospect–people thought that women would drive back into downtowns to shop during the day, either drive or take public transportation. But once women and children were kind of ensconced in their houses in the suburbs, that was just impossible. Who would want to do that? And the shopping options were really limited because they were mostly these strip malls that had a supermarket, a drugstore, and maybe a kid’s shoe store. But they didn’t have the kind of full-service department store that they did downtown. So, department store owners really wanted people to keep going downtown because that’s where they had put all of this time and investment. That was not an accurate read on human behavior. So very reluctantly, department store owners began first to build some small freestanding stores–they called them, you know, like “junior stores.” And then Gruen kind of came up with this way by packaging the department store with other stores that they could keep, like, their sense of dignity. They really wanted their stores to still be glamorous and still be special and not just another thing by the highway. So, the Gruen idea of the indoor shopping mall allowed them to keep some of that glamor from downtown and also feed off other shopping but move out to the suburbs. 

Roman Mars [00:13:10] So these early malls go up, and they get a lot of attention, especially this one large mall designed by Victor Gruen in Edina, Minnesota, called Southdale Center. And it’s a big media story. But how are these early malls received by the architecture and design world at large? Like, how did they respond? 

Alexandra Lange [00:13:28] The architecture press was totally wowed by the early models. You know, Southdale in particular was treated as this kind of second coming. One of the amazing things is that, you know, Jane Jacobs went out to Edina to see Southdale and wrote this, like, very glowing writeup of it in Architectural Forum. And if you think about our stereotype of Jane Jacobs–she was all about the city, she was all about small business. But at that moment, it was really seen as an important new element or important new tool for creating, you know, urbanism in the suburbs. 

Roman Mars [00:14:09] The outside of shopping malls is really boring. They’re just these big gray boxes when you see them from the road. But all the design thinking goes into the inside of the mall with things like fountains and atriums. Why is that? 

Alexandra Lange [00:14:22] I think that’s where the community idea–this kind of utopian community idea from the Gruen inception of the mall–really continues because if you’re in a space that just makes you want to shuffle along, like, say, an airport terminal, you don’t want to stay there. But if you’re in a space where there’s beautiful natural light, maybe there’s a fountain that kids can throw pennies into, or maybe there’s a bench so you can take a little break in between going from store to store, you’re going to stay there longer. And so even if mall owners stopped paying money for architectural features on the outside, they still spend a lot of time investing in architectural features and the upkeep of those features on the inside. There’s a whole dialogue around maintenance related to the mall. And I think if you look at some pictures of dead and dying malls, one of the first things you see is, like, the plants dying, they’ve taken all of the plants out of the planters, or, you know, there aren’t enough trash cans anymore. And so, part of the allure of the mall is of this, like, beautiful and beautifully maintained indoor space that you can go to at any time and the weather will always be perfect. And so that’s where the money goes, and that’s where I think some of the artistry goes. And I mean, the title of my book is Meet Me by the Fountain because that’s also how people orient themselves, right? “Meet me by the blue fountain.” “Meet me by the red fountain.” You know, the wall can be a confusing and kind of, like, jangly place, but these perpetual architecture features help us orient ourselves. 

Roman Mars [00:16:15] After the mall is introduced, and it sort of, like, begins to replicate. Then we hit the building boom for malls in the ’70s and ’80s. And then they really begin to change the landscape of America. Can you talk about that time and the sort of rise of the giant mall? 

Alexandra Lange [00:16:32] The early malls a lot of times are really quite simple. It’s just that eye shape, a T shape, or a V shape with, like, one, two, or three department stores. And the reason you’re going to the mall is to shop, to go to the department store, to, you know, maybe get a snack in a snack bar. The food court doesn’t actually become part of the mall until the mid 1970s. And then in the 1980s, you begin to get the first wave of boredom with the mall; people are kind of over the mall. And that’s when John Jerde comes in–this L.A. architect–and he’s like, “Okay, how can we get people to want to go to the mall again? I know. We’ll put an amusement park in the middle of the mall.” And once you put an amusement park in the middle of the mall, it gets exponentially bigger. 

Roman Mars [00:17:27] And did every mall kind of react in this way? Like, I know there’s some key ones–like, Mall of America has a roller coaster, aquarium, and stuff like that. Did that effect kind of ripple out into other malls, or was it really just confined to a few big ones? 

Alexandra Lange [00:17:42] The entire amusement park in the mall is really confined to just a few large ones. But the entertainment idea does ripple out. I mean, you get more and more ice-skating rinks in malls. You get bigger and bigger food courts, and they get more expressive architecture so that going to the food court is kind of an event. And there are more and more different kinds of cuisines that you can sample. You also get arcades added to malls. So, the offerings of malls get broader and broader, and just their square footage gets bigger and bigger. Those malls also are a bigger investment for their developers, so they’re trying to pull from a larger and larger area. So, whereas the original malls were really just trying to serve the suburbs all around them and, like, their quadrant of the city, these new malls are generally referred to as “super-regional malls.” So, they’re malls that people would really travel to. When you had to get your prom dress, you and your friends would get in the minivan and go to the mall that was like one or two hours away because it had the bigger, better department stores. And you’d spend a whole day there. And it’s just a different mentality about shopping, and it’s a slightly different relationship to the mall itself. 

Archival Footage #1 [00:19:01] This is the San Dimas mall, and this is where people of this world hang out. 

Mean Girls [00:19:07] Get in, loser. We’re going shopping. 

Roman Mars [00:19:21] You know, in the ’80s, during this growth and heyday of the sort of cultural tendencies of malls, there’s a real, you know, conflict about the mall as a public space versus a private space. Can you talk about, you know, why that’s important and what is happening inside of a mall that’s different than what would happen if this was a shopping district in a city? 

Alexandra Lange [00:19:45] As you can tell from the whole mall history, there’s been this desire to cast the mall as a community space and hence as a public space–to pretend, at least for a minute, that it’s welcoming to everybody, that anyone can go there at any time. But as the malls become bigger and actually start to serve as those de facto public spaces, you run up against the fact that store owners, mall owners don’t really want all the things that can happen in a public space to happen in their mall. And the principal one of those is protests. So there started to be this whole series of court cases basically arguing over whether you can protest in a mall. And the protests that end up serving as the basis for these cases in both the state and federal Supreme Court are over a whole range of issues–some of them are antiwar protests, some of them are antifur protests, some of them are union protests. But in each case, the mall owner asserts that they have the right to eject the protesters from their property because they are not private property. They don’t have to follow free speech rules. And then you get attorneys arguing that if malls are going to replace downtowns, shouldn’t they also have to operate like downtowns and let whoever wants to have free speech have free speech in these properties? One of the earliest cases in 1968, Thurgood Marshall goes before the U.S. Supreme Court and argues for the majority. And there’s this great passage where he basically talks about how the mall has replaced downtown. And I was so fascinated to find that, a) it was Thurgood Marshall and b) that he had really articulated the way that malls had taken on this public role as early as 1968 in a Supreme Court opinion. After that decision, the Court gets more and more conservative, and the assertion of free speech rights in malls actually gets eaten away until it becomes a state issue. And now, you know, that’s something that’s actually decided state by state. One of the most recent protests in malls that became a court case was a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America right before Christmas. 

Newscaster #1 [00:22:09] During one of the busiest shopping weeks of the year, the Mall of America is caught up in a legal battle with protesters. 

Newscaster #2 [00:22:15] Four leaders of Black Lives Matter say they received letters on Friday, threatening arrests if Wednesday’s rally takes place as planned inside the mall. 

Protester [00:22:23] They’re trying to force us to say something that, you know, they don’t really have the authority to do so. This is definitely not only an attack on Black Lives Matter but on everybody’s First Amendment rights and the right to speak out. 

Alexandra Lange [00:22:36] The protesters, like, marched in, chanting. And all of the screens that were installed in the mall around all of these Christmas trees lit up with messages that the protesters had to leave. So, it was kind of like, “You’re ruining our commercial display for Christmas with your protest.” You have to think about, like, why did the Black Lives Matter protesters choose the Mall of America? They chose it because there would be people there. There’s no point in a protest if, you know, you’re not going to have people see you and join you and have media coverage. So, in a place like Minneapolis in the winter, the concentration of people was going to be at the mall, and that’s why they wanted to protest there. And I think that’s really the rub of all of these court cases. If you’ve evacuated your city and put all of your commercial development in the suburbs, you have to leave space in the suburbs for things to happen that aren’t only commercially motivated, that aren’t okay with store owners, that everybody doesn’t agree with. 

Roman Mars [00:23:48] You might have noticed that we’re past the heyday of the mall. And with malls across America closing, what are we going to do with all that empty space? The future of the mall after this. I’ve also picked out some of my favorite episodes of 99% Invisible to share, and the audio is conveniently embedded even on mobile. Try it yourself. Go to invisible for a free trial. And when you’re ready to launch, use the offer code “invisible” to save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. Is the New Year making you want a new look for your space? Article is the easiest way to make your space beautiful. Their team of designers focuses on beautifully crafted pieces, quality materials, and durable construction. When I moved into my new place, I wanted new, quality furniture. I was tired of a poorly made hodgepodge of stuff that I’d collected over the years. So, I bought Article everything. My big dining room table. The Zola black leather dining chairs–which are simply the best dining chairs and existence–I have eight of them. My sofa, coffee table, end table, media unit sideboard–I basically have an Article showroom in my rented house. I go for the walnut mid-century styles, but whether you’re mid-century modern, industrial, or traditionalist, you’ll be able to find something at a fair price. And this is because Article cuts out the middleman. There are no showrooms–except for the one in my house–no salespeople, and no retail markups. Article is offering our listeners $50 off their first purchase of $100 or more to claim. Visit, and the discount will be automatically applied at checkout. That’s Get $50 off your first purchase of $100 or more. 99% Invisible is supported by BetterHelp online counseling. I’m sure you, like me, know a lot of people in counseling or are in need of counseling. We’re past the heyday of the mall now. How many malls have closed and are malls actually dying off, or like, what are the numbers like?

Alexandra Lange [00:26:03] At their peak, there were approximately, like, 2,000 enclosed malls in the U.S. I think that number went down to about 1500, you know, over the past ten years. And people are expecting us to end up after the pandemic, probably around, like, 800 in closed malls. In the 1990s, which was basically peak mall, there were 140 new malls being built per year. But in 2007, there were zero new malls that were built. People aren’t wrong that the mall is dying. Like, there is going to be this huge die off. But I don’t think the mall is going away. I mean, 800 is still a lot of malls. And many of those are really the big marquee malls in their towns. You know, in the New York area, it’s things like King of Prussia outside Philadelphia, the mall at Short Hills in New Jersey, or the Westchester up in Yonkers. So, the richest malls are surviving. It’s really what are typically referred to as Class B and C malls that might have had Sears and other department stores that have now gone out of business that are dying. And so those are the ones that people film, like, depressing glamor shots at and also the ones that are potential sites for adaptive reuse. 

Roman Mars [00:27:32] What do you cite is the reason for malls closing? 

Alexandra Lange [00:27:35] It’s a whole bunch of things. You know, we’ve had this kind of panicky story for years that online retail was going to destroy bricks and mortar retail. It’s actually only 21% of retail sales even now. And the pandemic has accelerated that because more people were doing more Internet shopping and, you know, found out that that can be great for a lot of things. But there are still many kinds of shopping that are really better done in person. And even before the pandemic, internet shopping hadn’t killed off bricks and mortar retail at the rate that initial dire predictions said it would. So that’s part of it. There are also just larger changes in the way we shop. Department stores are no longer the arbiters of taste that they used to be. And more people want to shop in smaller stores, even if those aren’t necessarily independently owned. And then there’s also just a greater income disparity. During the rise of the malls, the American middle class was doing well and growing. And now there is this great disparity between the upper middle class that’s still doing great and the lower middle and working class who have less and less money. And people in those families are much more likely to shop in big box stores and discount stores because they don’t really have the income for kind of the middle range stores that used to be the bread and butter of the mall. 

Roman Mars [00:29:04] It’s funny because today there are lots of malls that are now home to employment offices and DMVs. And in a way, that’s super cool because that’s the mixed-use idea that was closer to Gruen’s original design of the mall. But you write that it’s usually a bad sign for the mall when this happens because they’ve probably given the DMV cheap rent because they’re desperate to draw people in. So, I mean, this is kind of ironic. 

Alexandra Lange [00:29:31] Yeah. I mean, that should be a good thing. I think having a DMV and other public services inside a mall would be great. Like, think how convenient that would be; if you have limited time on a weekend, you can get all of these things taken care of. And in fact, in the conclusion of my book, I talk about the malls in some other countries, including the Philippines, where many of the malls have a lot of public services, you know, just folded into them. My mother volunteers for the Friends of the Durham Public Library, and they run a used bookstore. And it was one of the businesses in an empty storefront in Northgate Mall in Durham before it closed. So, again, city services come in where commercial businesses don’t want to pay rent anymore. It’s hard for malls to recover from one of their anchor department stores closing unless something else big comes in. 

Roman Mars [00:30:25] Is there a way for struggling malls to recover? Is there a formula that actually works? 

Alexandra Lange [00:30:30] Some malls have been saved or at least stabilized by things like trampoline parks coming in. Again, like, that’s the entertainment venue. One of the ways that I think malls can survive in the future is through smarter and perhaps more distinct curation of the mall’s stores. I mean, you know, I know that “curation” is kind of an overused term, but, I think, for a long time, malls are getting by on essentially all having the same mix of stores and restaurants–just at different price point. So, you’d kind of, you know, decide how much money you wanted to spend that day and go to that mall. But going forward, it’s easy enough to get inexpensive chain store clothing online. So, malls could really distinguish themselves by stocking themselves with things that are all for families–or I have a couple examples in the book where malls have turned themselves essentially into, like, ethnic food and business centers, depending on like the changing nature of their suburb. So, you have, like, a Latino mall outside Atlanta or a lot of Asian malls in northern California that have businesses that are familiar to people from other places, but also that they can’t get somewhere else, and which sell things that they can’t get online. 

Roman Mars [00:31:57] When malls do fail and they do close, there’s thousands and thousands of square feet going unused. But, you know, there aren’t a lot of mall-shaped things that you can put in there after everyone is gone. What happens with these dead malls? 

Alexandra Lange [00:32:14] Well, a lot of times they just sit there for quite some time because not only do they have these many thousands of square feet that not a lot of entities can deal with, but often they’re owned by multiple entities. And so, it’s not as easy as just, like, one person selling the mall to one other person. 

Roman Mars [00:32:35] There have been some cases of adaptive reuse where a new business or something has taken over a dead mall. What is the most interesting example of that that you’ve seen? 

Alexandra Lange [00:32:44] Highland Mall outside Austin, Texas, has been turned over the past decade-plus into the leadership campus for Austin Community College. And they turned one of the former department stores into this huge room full of computers–like, workshop space. And they have turned one of the other department stores into the headquarters for Austin Public TV with a lot of internal studio and recording space and an auditorium. And the parking lot around the mall–some of it they’ve actually made green open spaces, sort of like a regular college campus. And around the perimeter, they’re building housing–some of which can be student housing, but other of which can just be affordable rental apartments. 

Roman Mars [00:33:40] It’s great if we could use these dead malls in some way. Like, people always say that the greenest building is a building that’s already built. How do you feel about it when it comes to reusing malls? 

Alexandra Lange [00:33:51] I love to see these examples of adaptive reuse. When people talk about adaptive reuse, they’re often thinking about older buildings in cities. But at this point, malls are older buildings. I mean, many of the malls that we’re talking about that are failing are 50 years old. And I was actually talking to the chancellor of Austin Community College, and he was saying that lots of people have very poignant family memories of things that happened in the food court at that mall. These buildings aren’t just buildings in their communities. a) They’re very conveniently located, b) everyone knows where Highland Mall is because it’s been a reference point. And we shouldn’t just kind of throw away those memories and throw away that kind of name recognition–along with getting rid of the tremendous environmental sink of the building materials. So, I really see the malls as an opportunity, and I would love for people to get more creative about what to do with them. There’s a lot of dead mall photography, which I think can be very beautiful, but it also kind of fixes them in people’s minds as these dead entities and, I think, kind of stops the mental process that it takes to then think of, “Okay, what are we going to do with it next?” And I mean, I guess coming from a design background, I just see them as an opportunity, a problem, and something that could be really fun to think about–and, you know, something that shouldn’t be depressing, but it’s like, “Oh, actually there’s all this new free land in cities. What can we do with it?” 

Roman Mars [00:35:43] Well, this has been so great. I’ve really enjoyed the book, too. It was just so much fun to both learn a lot of stuff and also have all this information slot into my own sort of lived experience of a mall. I appreciate it. 

Alexandra Lange [00:35:56] Thanks for having me. 

Roman Mars [00:36:01] Alexandra Lange’s book is called Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall. And if you buy the book, which I highly recommend, you flip it over, and you look at the back cover, you will find that someone has written, “It’s an architectural page turner. This insightful, witty, and smart book captures everything compelling and confounding about the American Mall. –Roman Mars, coauthor of The 99% Invisible City.” I wrote that for the back of this book. That’s how much I believe in this book. You should get it. 99% Invisible was produced this week by Chris Berube. Music by our director of sound, Swan Real. Mix and tech production by Martín Gonzalez. Fact-checking by Liz Boyd. Our executive producer is Delaney Hall. Kurt Kohlstedt is our digital director. Our intern is Sarah Baik. The rest of the team includes Vivian Le, Jayson DeLeon, Christopher Johnson, Emmett FitzGerald, Lasha Madan, Joe Rosenberg, Sofia Klatzker, and me, Roman Mars. We are a part of the Stitcher and SiriusXM Podcast Family, now headquartered six blocks north in the Pandora building… in beautiful… uptown… Oakland, California. You can tweet me @romanmars and the show @99piorg. We’re on Instagram and Reddit, too. You can find links to other Stitcher shows I love as well as every past episode of 99pi at Get in, loser. We’re going to Stitcher. 

  1. Antonia

    Endlessly fascinating topic.
    As an Australian, I feel strangely compelled (by pride or shame?) to point out that Westfield didn’t get bought out by Australians. It was started in Australia in the 1950s by a young European emigré, Frank Lowy – in a field in the western suburbs of Sydney. It’s always struck me as incredibly ironic – not only because Westfield is a comparatively high end brand, named after one of the most socio-economically disadvantaged areas of Sydney; but also because of the huge global expansion of Westfield, which has seen it export the quintessentially US-style mall back into the USA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All Categories

Minimize Maximize