Subcityscape

A Gruen inspired renaissance?

(1) The Mall Rises Again: How to breathe new life into America’s much-maligned indoor shopping centers. (City-Journal)

(2) A related quote from Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

Imagineers said that when they were planning Tomorrowland, Walt would carry books around on city planning and mutter about traffic, noise, and neon signs, and he kept three volumes in his office to which he frequently referred: Garden Cities of Tomorrow by Sir Edward Ebenezer Howard (originally published in 1902 and reissued in 1965), which promoted a vision of a more pastoral urban life; and The Heart of Our Cities and Out of a Fair; a City, both by an architect and mall designer named Victor Gruen, who urged the reconceptualization of the city as more ordered, rational, and humane.

*You can see a copy of the Gruen book on Walt’s desk in the Fall 2010 issue of Disney twenty-three.

(3) Excerpts from Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks by Karal Ann Marling

Both his office bookcase and the studio library contained multiple copies of architect Victor Gruen’s 1964 The Heart of Our Cities, a study that proposed remedies for an “urban crisis” the author described in chilling detail. The reason for the crisis was the decay and disappearance of the ancient city center under the influence of cars and suburbs and media, the television, that made face-to-face contact irrelevant. When the center eroded, the sense of community usually vanished along with it…Southdale, which was built as Disneyland was being completed, was a Main Street for a new suburb that lacked one, having many of the same characteristics that made Walt’s streetscapes so appealing. For example, Gruen championed the interests of pedestrians at Southdale. He reassured the frazzled shopper with open, lively, readable interior spaces and codes that harmonized the facades of stores, to stave off visual fatigue. In the absence of an organized political structure, he fostered a sense of place by providing urban amenities in the form of public sculpture, artist-designed benches, and fountains.

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