Too close to the wiles and calculations of consumption, stores and
shopping centers are generally relegated to secondary, pedestrian
status in the history of architecture. And yet, throughout the
middle decades of the twentieth century, stores and shopping
centers were an important locus of modernist architectural thought
and practice. Under the mantle of modernism, the merchandising
problems and possibilities of main streets, cities, and suburbs
became legitimate-if also conflicted-responsibilities of the
In Pedestrian Modern, David Smiley reveals how the
design for places of consumption informed emerging modernist
tenets. The architect was viewed as a coordinator and a site
planner-modernist tropes particularly well suited to merchandising.
Smiley follows this development from the twenties and thirties,
when glass and transparency were equated with modernist
rationality; to the forties, when cities and congestion presented
considerable hurdles for shopping district design and, at the same
time, when modern concerns about the pedestrian deeply affected
city and neighborhood planning; to the early fifties, when both
urban shopping districts and suburban shopping centers became
large-scale modernist undertakings. Although interpreting the tools
and principles of modernism, designs for shopping never quite shed
the specter of consumption.
Tracing the history of architecture's relationship with retail
environments during a time of significant transformation in urban
centers and in open suburban landscapes, Smiley expands and
qualifies the making of American modernism.
Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, History
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