Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Tacoma Mall

Tacoma, Washington - circa 1960's

Love this retrolicious shot of the '60s Tacoma Mall entrance! Just awesome. And according to the source for this photo, the architect of this mall, John Graham, was the same man/firm who designed the Space Needle in 1962. I kind of get a sense for that relationship when looking at this picture, don't you?

Big thanks go out to Tyler Kaye, for submitting this shot (and several other gems you'll see real soon)! I appreciate the submissions, Tyler, and thank you for taking the time to share the vintage mall goodness. You just made my list of new best friends. :)

Mall history: 1964 - present
Architect: John Graham
Current website: here
Current aerial view


Blogger Livemalls said...

There is something truly wonderful abut that entrance, though I don't really have words to describe what I'm feeling.

Wed Jul 05, 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Kind of the same thing for me, Steven! I just know I really dig looking at it. Guess it's the lines, the balance, and the symmetry of the whole thing, really.

Wed Jul 05, 10:34:00 PM  
Blogger Mitch Glaser said...

This entrance is great because it is a modernist take on the neoclassical design that framed the great monuments of Washington D.C. along with lesser-known civic buildings in cities across the United States. Its balance, symmetry, and grandeur tell us "this is an important place worthy of respect, and it belongs to everyone." That's what it tells me, anyway.

It's a shame that the great architects of our era now shun "crass" shopping malls and the other trappings of suburbia. America has shifted its civic life from the town square to the urban fringe, so great design must follow, as it briefly did in the postwar period.

Wed Jul 05, 11:10:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Really well said, Mitch! Thanks!

Wed Jul 05, 11:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those columns continue on once you go inside the entrance as well, for about 200 feet I'd say. Some of the grand opening news articles called it the "Columnarium." The entrance is little-changed today, except that a large free-standing Tacoma Mall sign that is taller than the roofline of the building was added in the 2000 remodel. I had read somewhere that they tried to take out these columns but couldn't, since that part of the building depends on them for structural integrity. I definitely agree with Mitch that the entrance commands respect -- you feel dwarfed yet you are drawn toward the building at the same time.

By the way, John Graham, Jr. was the principal architect of a firm that beared his father's name. John Graham, Sr. was responsible for many of the early high-rise structures in Downtown Seattle, including the flagship stores of Frederick & Nelson and The Bon Marche.

I believe Victor Steinbreuck (who was well-known in Seattle and who published two Seattle Cityscape sketchbooks during the '60s and '70s) did the actual design work on the Space Needle while under Graham's employ.

Thu Jul 06, 12:47:00 AM  
Blogger Jon Konrath said...

John Graham also designed Northgate Mall in Seattle, which you've shown us a couple of times.

Thu Jul 06, 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It's a shame that the great architects of our era now shun "crass" shopping malls and the other trappings of suburbia. America has shifted its civic life from the town square to the urban fringe, so great design must follow, as it briefly did in the postwar period."

I, too, believe that this is such a shame and I don't see many examples of great design today. It's all boring, boxish and blandish and I cannot for the life of me understand why.

" I had read somewhere that they tried to take out these columns but couldn't, since that part of the building depends on them for structural integrity."

I am guessing if they had REALLY wanted to they would have knocked down the building. Thank goodness that they saw the potential to keep such a structure an integral part of our society.

Thu Jul 06, 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Modernist take on neoclassical design??....those are definitely gothic inspired vaults. It's a cathedral of shopping!! :)


Fri Jul 07, 02:09:00 AM  
Blogger Scott Parsons said...

Isn't Tacoma the home of the "aroma"?

Fri Jul 07, 01:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The aroma's pretty much gone these days -- I guess they have better filters on the exhaust from the pulp mills. Plus, the smelter and the rendering plant are history.

Sat Jul 08, 01:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same architect that designed the Tacoma Mall did Southcenter Mall too, which shared so many architectural bits: similar layout, similar Bon Marche exterior (same guy, I think, owing to the columns on IT, both Tacoma and Southcenter Bons retain their looks despite change to Macy's) These malls also shared the main entrance columns, the Gothic arch ceilings, etc. The entire inside courtyard behind these entrances were all columns, as shown, and each indoor column had 4 spotlights uplighting it, mounted halfway up. These malls also had great fountains - Southcenter one by "P. Billingsley" (very similar to Tsutakawa designs - wish I knew who this guy was) and one with an oval spray ring - Tacoma with two more Billingsley fountains, a towering craggy rusted metal fountain of unknown make standing beside the Bon's inside entrance in a grotto below floor level, and a small Tsutakawa in the courtyard of the Bon's restaurant. All 5 of the fountains are gone - again, I wish I knew where the 4 sculptural ones went.

Sun Jul 09, 09:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone confirm and direct me to where it says that John Graham Sr. designed the Fleischmann's Yeast Plant in Sumner, WA? THANK YOU! Sara

Tue Jul 25, 04:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that the Tacoma Mall is related to the Space Needle is awesome! Too bad it looks nothing like it anymore because the entrance was f'ed up with a giant sign bigger than the entrance itself. They also painted the entrance a poopy color and covered the colums... :(

Mon Jul 31, 05:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a Sears, oh... Then how about Kohls?

Mon Jul 31, 05:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work at the mall - the entrance is gone now. It's so sad, I wish they would've kept it looking like this. It was swanky!

Sat Jan 26, 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i remember this entrance as a child but now the pillars are all gone. i was just at the mall last week and its totally rebuilt and looks nothing like this. i can remember being about 11 or 12 in the mid 90's and i remember walking up the stairs into the main entrance of the mall from the bon marche (macey's)there used to be a stair case with a huge water fall, i used to love walking up it and throwing pennies in it. just wanted to share that. does anyone else recall the stairs and water fall? its no longer there!

Sun Oct 05, 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger writeman said...

I remember when the mall opened, I was there, but only the Bon Marche was there at the side by the freeway. Kirby Grant who played Sky King on TV was at the opening, there was a stage in the parking lot and my little brother and I had our pictures taken on his lap. I still have the one of my brother with him, but mine got damaged beyond repair in a flood years ago. We thought the mall was something pretty special once it was completed. And I always liked it better than the larger South Center mall in Tukwila.

Sat Sep 12, 12:38:00 AM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also remember the fountains including the tall fountain with the curved stairs leading to the lower mall level. I was a kid back in the 80's and remembering walking down the stairs on our way to Farrel's restaurant. A few weekends we would leave Bremerton to shop in Tacoma since the Kitsap Mall wasn't built yet and the majority of the old CK mall was razed. After more than 13 years I visited the mall a few days ago and I am utterly dissapointed in the closure of the main entrance and store fill-ins covering that whole area. I swear I remember there being another main corridor with other good stores. I think they closed off quite a bit as far as I am concerned. Apple store? I mean really, COME ON!!! I do remember my last visit 13 y.a. and yes, I was dissapointed when I found out the main fountain and chandeliers throughout the mall were eliminated. Now I see why the mall has been experencing more crime. Replacing modern contemporary (60's - 80's)architecture with todays plain boring architecture and stores I'm sure can create boredom in the individual mind, resulting in other forms of activities whether legal or illegal. Washington is no longer the Washington I remember growing up in. I hate to say this, but welcome to California phase #2.

Wed Jul 06, 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That looks an awesome place. I'm gonna try to visit it. I'm pretty sure me and my friends are going to love it. Try visiting the Landmark Makati, you'll love it too. Anyway, Thanks for sharing!

Thu Jan 18, 10:00:00 PM  

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