Let's Go Shopping! II

The act of shopping, while not always seen as entertainment in itself, has often been associated with social interaction.  The shop as a space has taken many forms over the years, carefully organized for the convenience of both the proprierors and the customers.  Some of the earliest material in this part of the exhibit reflects the rise of consumer culture following World War I.


At that time, the "downtown" in any given town was the destination for shopping, and the shops usually found there were small shops or perhaps department stores, if the town was large enough to support them.  Shopping was made as enticing as possible, starting with the stores themselves.  The elevation and details of the Stockton Stores by Stafford Jory show how ornate the exteriors of these small shops could be.  Department stores also dressed well.  Interiors could be equally well appinted, illustrated here by the photographs of Alfred Dunhill's tobacco counter.  Gardner Dailey's drawing for the interior of Ransohoff's department store of 1947 gives an example of how contemporary art was used to set the tone of the shopping experience in the immediate aftermath of World War II.


In the mid-20th century, many Americans moved to the suburbs, and their shopping moved with them.  The shopping mall with abundant parking was born.  This was not the end of downtown shopping, but an opportunity for expansion and reconfiguration of these social spaces.  An example of subtle reconfguration of shopping environments is displayed in two projects for the Frank Werner Bally Shoe Store.  Henrik Bull's sketches for Werner Bally's stores show designs following along gender lines--the downtown San Francisco branch is aimed entirely at men, while the Santa Rosa branch has large sections for both women's and children's shoes, but no men's section at all.  The downtown was apparently still the domain of working men, while women held sway in suburban space.


Two malls from the 1950s by Alexander Cantin, the Moraga Center and The Rheem, are wonderful examples of suburban, post-war malls.  Abundant parking and a planned recreation of "downtown" spaces--theaters, eateries, shops and services are all provided.  The "strip mall" was an early style of suburban retail development; another example by Donald Olsen shows the Abouaf development of 1945.


These open-air shopping centers, while still common today, gave way to semi- and fully enclosed malls which no longer fronted roadways, but became independent islands of commerce surrounded by parking.  The Carmel Plaza by Olof Dahlstrand shows the influence of the parking lot upon the design of the building, aligning the entrance of the mall to the parking area.


Perhaps an ultimate expression of the suburban shopping cneter can be seen in the development of New Towns in the United Kingdom.  Here, the town itself has moved wholesale to the "suburbs," organizing around a shopping area.  Stevenage New Town, planned by Donald Reay, situates the town itself around the shopping square, almost recreating the traditional downtown business district.