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The Future of the City

The Mall of America

Ian Frazier

On visiting the nation's largest mall, Ian Frazier reflects on how modern shopping environments turn the American scene into a place more limited than ever before. "Buildings that differed from the Mall of America only in size spread across the landscape all around," he writes, "close enough to one another that a person wearing half-league boots could jump from one roof to the next for mile after mile--from the Mall of America to the vast Sportsmart store to Office Depot to Old Navy to Toys 'R Us to Target, pausing finally at yet another local mall, the Southdale Shopping Center, the world's first enclosed shopping mall, built in 1956 by a Minneapolis department-store owner in order to provide comfortable indoor shopping during the cold Minnesota winters." The existential meaning of malls is his larger subject, and it has never been so entertainingly explored.

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