Few places have been as nostalgized, or as maligned, as malls. Since their birth in the 1950s, they have loomed large as temples of commerce, the agora of the suburbs. In their prime, they proved a powerful draw for creative thinkers such as Joan Didion, Ray Bradbury, and George Romero, who understood the mall's appeal as both critics and consumers. Yet today, amid the aftershocks of financial crises and a global pandemic, as well as the rise of online retail, the dystopian husk of an abandoned shopping center has become one of our era's defining images. Conventional wisdom holds that the mall is dead. But what was the mall, really? And have rumors of its demise been greatly exaggerated?
Lange provides a smart and accessible cultural history — outlining the social, economic and architectural forces that led to the creation of U.S. malls as we know them. But she also looks forward ... Meet Me by the Fountain isn’t just a timeline of dudes with visions of malls dancing in their heads ... Lange has a perceptive eye for how spaces are designed — and for whom ... Lange examines what malls have meant for women as sites of professional advancement and how mall design — with its broad doors, gentle ramps, plentiful seating and generous air conditioning — can make them hospitable places for seniors to socialize ... A particularly intriguing thread in Meet Me By the Fountain examines malls’ complicity in segregation ... Lange doesn’t have a false nostalgia for malls. Meet Me by the Fountain is frank about how they have usurped public space. But at a time when malls still serve the function of bringing us together, Lange’s book is a thoughtful guide to helping them do what the best of them already have — but better.
[Lange] considers the all-too-familiar retail and 'lifestyle centers' to be 'ubiquitous and underexamined and potentially a little bit embarrassing as the object of serious study.' She then proceeds to examine them, thoroughly, seriously and in an engaging fashion ... A particular strength of Ms. Lange’s book is her canny appreciation of the mall’s resilience ... Ms. Lange’s elegant conclusion: The mall is dead; long live the mall.
... a well-researched introduction to the rise and fall and dicey future of an American institution ... Lange is evocative when it comes to the affective elements of mall culture, but her book is occasionally weighed down with cluttering detail ... When a nonfiction book bends under the weight of data dumping, I tend to fault the editor rather than the writer. Spending years neck-deep in archives can cause a perspectival shift in which every detail becomes a darling. That’s the point at which a cleareyed editor should swoop in with advice about which ones to kill ... Still, this book is a useful survey, and Lange opens plenty of avenues for readers to wander down.