Friday, May 25, 2007

Retro Mall Video: New Urbanism - Sprawl Retail Lecture


"San Antonio By Design" Seminar (1991)

Architect and and urban planner, Andrés Duany, conducts a lecture on suburban sprawl, and retail planning/development, in San Antonio, Texas. While some of the focus does center on the San Antonio area, much of the overall message is universal and readily applicable anywhere. Personally, while a tad on the technical side at times (for a layman like me anyway), I found this talk fascinating, and gained some new perspective from it--especially on the retail planning end, which Duany covers in depth (shopping center planning and such). From the video description:
"This 1991 slide show and lecture was given to attendees in San Antonio and is a variation of Andres Duany's very popular and well-received presentation that he gave to universities, architectural conventions, urban planning groups and anybody who would listen to him."
Note: Just to get us started I'm hosting part one here on MOA, but there's 9 segments in all, so after you watch the first one, simply click here to go to the playlist for the rest on YouTube. Hope some of you find it as interesting as I did!

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Mark said...

Excellent video, no matter how much you'd hate to think about it,mostly what he says is true.

Admit it suburbia isn't stable,and building more of this type in this situation would as he said,devastate the original city center.

I'd sort of have to disagree that suburbia is entirely a harsh environment.

I actually enjoyed shopping at older malls and shopping centers,it was a treat.

However in my case the inside of these places were more attractive than the outside,it's a shame that the malls have great interior decor yet outside is basically a sea of asphalt.

Interesting to note about his comment that people don't have a public square/meeting place in suburbia,thats not entirely true the MALL has become the public square to people,they go there to meet people,shop,and eat.

Since,as he stated town squares used to be the public meeting places,it would be safe to say that the malls we grew up in and loved to go to (the ones with fountains,post lighting,and dark interiors) were built around the concept of a public square. Which really doesn't surprise me.

However,this can't hide the fact that the suburbs really can not be considered as a substitute for real neighborhoods.

This leads me to thinking an alternative plan to those suffering malls out there,what if instead of bulldozing them over for another big box center,we remove the roof,remake the anchor stores into civic buildings,but with keeping with the public square rustic interior we remake the artificial neighborhood-like mall into an actual neighborhood!

Of course this will require also,remaking the the parking lot into to more viable space,for things such as real open space,some areas where you could use for future growth,etc.

We could add housing over the the store spaces,bring in new businesses for the vacant spaces like restaurants,clothing stores,bank etc.

We would definitely need to redo the exterior,and would have to provide efficient pulblic transportation,etc.,etc.

But I think it's well worth trying,heck they did a almost similar thing with Chapel Square Mall with housing at the 2nd level and shopping at the bottom.

Fri May 25, 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Kangoon said...

Your comments about the malls becoming the town squares of the suburbs are perceptive. The difference is however that because malls are private space and not public space, an individual does not have the same free speech rights that he or she would have on the town square. The mall can control the content and manner of speech inside its boundaries.

Perhaps this is one reason that we are seeing greater control of public discourse by the corporations. People who grew up going to the malls never had a chance to expreience free speech in a town square or other public setting like a street corner.

Kev

Fri May 25, 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Good point, I also find it interesting that the mall ended up being the public center of the suburbs,even though its on private property. (yikes,that feels weird to say that)

However, it's understandable why the mall became the "center of it all". people were looking for convenient,yet comfortable area where they could socialize,shop,eat,and do other public activities. Back then they had like 3 choices.

Taken from the past pro-suburbian perspective from around like the 60's heres how they would look at it.

A. They could go downtown,but that would mean a lot of driving,walking through crowded streets,plus there could be a lot of crime there from their POV.

B. They could go to the next town center,but to them thats too small,and they might not have what they want,plus what if it's hot out?

C. They could just go to the nearest mall, easy, convenient shopping, isolated from the elements, easy access to food,more safe,and it's in a controlled environment.

Point is, people who lived in suburbia and who were staunch supporters for it's progress realized that they had no actual real public square where they would go to socialize. Downtowns were crowded,declining,and were considered dangerous. Plus oddly enough it probably lost it's attractiveness and character once it became exclusively became a shopping district. I their mind Downtown was "old" and was considered as "the past". On the other hand the other original town greens and squares, to them didn't suit their modern needs. They weren't "big" enough and didn't have famous brand names they wanted. So since downtowns weren't as glamorous as they used to be and town squares and greens didn't have what they "were looking for". So naturally they decided to go to the mall,and it has become a habit sense.

Also in those days you have to remember that this was a few decades after WWII people wanted to leave the past behind and move on no matter what the cost. Explains the reason for moving out to the suburbs and supporting new sprawl development.

However,none of this is an excuse for relying on a community (I don't know if thats the correct term for it) completely made out of single-use private property.

None of suburbia is actual public space. So why is this development type still encouraged by economic developers? I don't get it.

Indeed,city centers are still chocking. Like my city Torrington, CT has sprawled all the way beyond the top of the hill on East Main Street so much so it's starting to go over the town line! Right now there is a new Target being built,right behind the Walmart shopping center,there are plans for a 2nd Stop & Shop behind Moscrellos Garden Center and Applebees, the planning of redeveloping Torrington Parkade is now in progress,new Lowes and Big Y coming,yet if you look at the city of Torrington itself nothing much is happening. A lot of buildings are for lease,a bike and sports store moved out into Torrington Shopping Center, some shops are moving out do to the lack of progress.

It's not completely dead though, Warner Theatre is doing good business,plans for an additional theatre are coming through well some shops are still open.

The do have a plan for Downtown Torrington, it a great plan, it's a terrific plan, but barely anything has gotten off the ground yet.

WTF? they can rapidly create new sprawl within months,but they can't even get Torrington's city plan started yet?

In even a more idiotic plan Waterbury wants to demolish an entire block of an actual real neighborhood that people are living in behind the Brass Mill Mall,and in turn replace it with sprawling retail stores. It's dubbed the "Miracle Mile".

Wat to go,Connecticut,not

Fri May 25, 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Cora Buhlert said...

He does have a few good points, e.g. that single use areas are often a huge problem - and incidentally also the reason why so many suburbs are so boring, because there's nothing there but homes. And it's not limited to the US either, German city councils are also big fans of single use areas. In my town, they decided to create a "media quarter" and proceeded to throw out retail stores which had been there for years or make life uneccessarily difficult for them, because this is now supposed to be a media industry center.

On the other hand, the older mixed use areas have their share of problems. Parking is often extremely difficult, traffic can be a nightmare, etc... And traditional US-style shopping malls in their huge seas of concrete do have a certain appeal or we wouldn't all be here.

The ideal city would be a mix of both old and new, of car and pedestrian friendly areas. And US suburbs and retail parks are indeed nightmares from a pedestrian's point of view. I will never forget my foolish attempt to get from one US mall to another within viewing distance by foot, which forced me to cut my way across three parking lots (both malls and a Target store), landscaping, a four lane road with no pedestrian crossing (I crossed at the car traffic lights and got honked at a lot) and a dam separating the road from the mall parking lots on either side. Afterwards, I looked like I had just returned from a trek through the wilderness, not tried to go from one mall to another within viewing distance.

By the way, from my European perspective, I found the way that he described the second town in Virginia as looking like a museum village very funny, because it didn't actually look all that old to me. I have seen much older buildings and actual town, which were inhabited by actual living and breathing people.

Fri May 25, 07:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

The only time I see parking lots as appealing is if they're landscaped well,or if it's wintertime,or if it's confortable out,because if it's hot and humid outside then I'm not staying outside looking at the parking lot for very long and much more looking forward to the inside of the mall!

However there is that sense of drama of walking that long distance to the mall from the farther away parking spot. As you see the front getting closer and closer to you it's like a big long opening introduction to the mall,until you make it inside, for which you become fully involved in the malls storyline.

I hope this making sense cause thats how I could only describe it as.

Sat May 26, 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Cora Buhlert said...

I don't think anybody likes parking lots, but cars won't be going away anytime soon and they have to park somewhere. The problem is even worse in the US, where public transport is less developed than in Europe and Asia.

And huge concrete parking lots, unattractive as they are, are also practical, where space is not an issue. Where it is, underground or multistory parking garages are more practical, though these have their own share of problems.

A good compromise are Park & Ride systems, where people park outside the city center and then take public transport into the city. Again, this only works when there is public transport.

Sat May 26, 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...

You know what's funny? If I, a native San Antonian, had to rely upon that which this guy is considering the primo aspects of my city as my own personal highlights of living here, I would have packed my bags up and moved far, far away a long, long time ago. This guy doesn't want to realize that the suburbs in places like S.A. are welcome developments. All of the anonymous big box developments and housing communities are far better than what they replaced and far, far better than any alternatives that would have sprung up from the inside.

Besides, he doesn't get that in places such as San Antonio, what is considered "suburbia" is not considered as such for long. The neighborhood I live in, for example, for sure would have been considered part of suburbia when it was a brand new development in 1968, but just 40 years later it's very much a part of the city proper, with an overflow of office buildings, shopping centers, and the like. Had people 40 years ago been afraid of the idea of "suburbia", this place might have not been developed as much as it has, or, turning the clock back an additional ten years to before there were even any plans for this place, might not have been developed at all.

Fact is, you cannot compare cities going through their adolescence with other cities, mostly in Europe and the U.S. Northeast, that are already at midlife. To cities such as ours, with plenty of room to spread out and grow, a suburb is like that inch a gawky teenaged boy tends to grow by every other month. By the time that teenaged boy goes from being 4'10" to his final height of 6'2", he doesn't need any more growing. But San Antonio and other cities like it are still hovering at about 5'10" -- much taller than at their origin points, but still needing additional growth to reach our final "heights".

Also, as far as shopping centers go, our harsh summer climates favor the more "traditional" indoor, climate-controlled shopping malls that have unfortunately gone out of favor with retail developments. It is far more pleasurable to saunter down, say, North Star Mall, than it is to have to navigate the far less friendly Huebner Oaks Shopping Center, even though Huebner Oaks is far closer to me and is more geared toward my (newly middle class) socioeconomic standing than North Star Mall (which feels more "old money") is. At least at the mall I know I can find covered parking and won't have to worry about possible heat stroke while shopping there in mid-August.

Sun Nov 23, 11:14:00 PM  

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