Archives On The Air 147: Socialist Shopping Malls—Victor Gruen Papers

May 6, 2019

Today we think of shopping malls as the epitome of capitalism. But the man who invented malls was a socialist. Austrian architect and mall-inventor Victor Gruen believed malls were a way to re-centralize suburban sprawl and create public spaces. 

By the 1960s malls were privatized. It was even decided that protests in malls were not covered by the first amendment because malls were private spaces. Gruen hated what his creation had become.

He once said, "I am often called the father of the shopping mall. I would like to take this opportunity to disclaim paternity once and for all. I refuse to pay alimony to those bastard developments. They destroyed our cities."

Malls did become important social centers in the 70s and 80s. But today many malls are seeing a rapid decline.

Learn more about shopping mall history in Victor Gruen's papers at UW's American Heritage Center.