The real importance of malls as structures and its other facets were elaborated and critically analyzed by Gutterson in his article. Assessing the capabilities of malls to exhaust different responses among patrons and visitors were given point by point by Gutterson. In the end, malls can exhibit different potentials and characteristics that affect inpiduals in a certain way. More than just a place for leisure, malls can create different feelings among inpiduals.
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Gutterson analyzes from an observer’s point of view the way malls have influenced different people in their actions. In addition, he pointed out and incorporated several important ideas that are related to the issue being referred to. The overall aim of the article is to illustrate how the objectives of a traditional marketplace have shifted to a more enclosed and confined structure that Americans created which we now call malls. With these he pointed out different outcomes of this shift and how people and inpiduals have responded to such. It is these thorough these outcomes that a proliferation of malls have become existent in different societies.
In the first part of the article exemplified the way the Mall of America is different from any other malls in the United States in terms of land area and space occupied. “With 4.2 million square feet of floor space – including twenty – two times the retail footage of the average American shopping center – the Mall of America was the “largest fully enclosed combination retail and family complex in the United States.” (Guterson, p.451) Truly, according to Gutterson, the mall is setting different records left and right during its time. “The mall was five times larger than Red Square and twenty times larger than St. Peter’s Basilica, it incorporated 2.3 miles of hallways and almost twice as much steel as the Eiffel Tower.” (Guterson, p.451)
Analyzing such instances, the mall when it was created does not solely revolve on its distinct purpose rather it seeks to create another purpose – enhancing tourism. This was also specified by Gutterson in his article wherein he pointed out the true scope of the mall’s creation. “I knew already that the Mall of America had been imagined by its creators not merely as a marketplace but as a national tourist attraction, an immense zone of entertainments.” (Gutterson, p.451) That is why such enthusiasm and anticipation has been given upon the completion of the Mall of America. This was also manifested by the numerous amounts of visit it generates per year that has also been elaborated by Gutterson.
After such introduction, Gutterson introduces his main idea by describing the current architectural description of modern American malls. He mentioned that though the Mall of America exemplifies something that is compared to be a breakthrough, it still remains to be part of the common architectural foundations of its time. “It nuances were instantly familiar as the generic features of the American shopping mall at the tail of the twentieth century: polished stone, polished tile, shiny chrome and brass, terrazzo floors, gazebos.” (Gutterson, p.452)
Digging in further, Gutterson may also have tried to point out that though the Mall of America may have been a breakthrough in terms of its size, but the way it was built was still ordinary and lacked such innovation that is why it is still considered common for him.
In the next section, Gutterson describes how malls are psychologically creating stoppage of time and someway hiding each inpidual’s distraction of the real and outside walls. The barriers and walls of malls serve as an important way for people to escape the realities of the outside world. The common and nesting ground for local folks as well as visitors to enjoy what the site offers to them. “Here we are free to wander endlessly and furtively watch our fellow wanderers, thousands upon thousands of milling strangers who have come with the intent of losing themselves in the mall’s grand, stimulating design.” (Gutterson, p.452)
It is through this scenario that Gutterson emphasizes the psychological feeling of being lost among inpiduals. Lost pertaining to people losing their sense of time due to the way malls are structured and built. “Getting lost, feeling lost, being lost – these states of mind are intentional features of the mall’s psychological terrain” (Gutterson, p.452). With regards to the American Mall, Gutterson also emphasizes that due to the buildings size, people too are becoming lost in direction and where to go even if signs are already plastered in different locations. “Everywhere I went I spied other pilgrims who had found, like me, that the straight way was lost and that YOU ARE HERE landmarks on the map kiosks referred to nothing in particular” (Gutterson, p.452).
Analyzing such instances, the way this evidence was presented shows the negative side of malls in every society. Like drugs it serves as an anti-depressant, a part reliever of what we really feel. We become addicted to the way it creates a feeling of ease. That is why there are people who are called mall-rats who roam and circle the mall because of the pleasure it gives it to them. However, such psychological feeling is only temporary as Gutterson points out. In the end, we will still return to our own realities in life. Inpidual’s continuous addiction to fancy new things that will make them forget their problems is what malls do. In truth, this happens without other people realizing that such case is happening to them already. This was illustrated by Gutterson in the reading.
Then after elaborating such occurrence, Gutterson next pointed out the way malls and marketplace differs and how it has evolved as time progresses. It is through this that such psychological feeling emanates from every inpidual inflicted with the addiction. “The mall exploits our acquisitive instincts without honoring our communal requirements, our eternal desire for discourse and intimacy, needs that until the twentieth century were traditionally met in our marketplaces but are not met in all giant shopping malls” (Gutterson, p.452). That is why Gutterson may feel that malls nowadays are more client-oriented and materialistic. It tends to forget the real essence why such concepts were created in the first place.
When people trace how marketplaces before are, it can be seen that there are similarities and differences from the past and the present. Gutterson presents these points in the article. In terms of its similarities, marketplaces and malls share the same attributes when it comes to the way things are sold and traded. “There is of course, nothing abhorrent in the human impulse to dwell in the marketplaces or the urge to buy sell, and trade” (Gutterson, p.453).
Their main differences can be seen in the underlying expectations which are present in the marketplace and absent at malls. For the marketplace, the depth of how it is seen by people during that time was different from the way it is seen today at the exemplification of malls. “Rural American traditionally looked forward to the excitement and sensuality of market day; Native Americans traveled long distances to barter and trade at sprawling, festive encampments” (Gutterson, p.453). This was also present in other societies in the world. Their reverence during market days was a symbol of more than just trade. “In Persian bazaars and in the ancient Greek agoras the very soul of the community was preserved and could be seen, felt, heard, and smelled as it might be nowhere else” (Gutterson, p.453).
Another similarity pointed out by Gutterson is the location of both malls and marketplaces. It has been stated by Gutterson that both entities exists and operate indoors. “Yet the mall’s varied and far-flung predecessors – the covered bazaars of the Middle East, the stately arcades of Victorian England, Italy’s vaulted and skylit gallerias, Asia’s monsoon protected urban market all suggest that the rituals of indoor shopping, although in their nuances not often like our own are nevertheless broadly known” (Gutterson, p.453)
It can be argued that Gutterson sees the creation of the marketplace as a communal effort. It is a type of cooperation that seeks more than economic benefits. It seeks to cater not only to economic but also social and interpersonal growth of an inpidual. “All over the planet the humblest of people have always gone to market with hope in their hearts and in expectation of something beyond mere goods – seeking a place where humanity is temporarily in ascendance, a palette for the senses, one another” (Gutterson, p.453) This is what Gutterson has been pointing out in the article.
On the other hand, for malls there are no links to the way it creates a communal meaning among people who enter compared to marketplaces. It evolved from the trails of American history that paved the way for its existence. “In our collective discourse the shopping mall appears with the tract house, the freeway, and the backyard barbeque as a product of the American postwar years, a testament to contemporary necessities and desires and an invention not only peculiarly American but peculiarly of our own era too” (Gutterson, p.453).
However such analysis may prove, malls also share a positive benefit into different societies. “The late twentieth century American contribution has been to transform the enclosed bazaar into an economic institution that is vastly profitable yet socially enervated, one that redefines in fundamental ways human relationship to the marketplace” (Gutterson, p.453).
With these notions, Gutterson now classifies Mall of America whether it fits the category of either mall or marketplace. In the end, he justifies that Mall of America indeed fits the description of what an American conception of malls are save for the differences in the way it was constructed. “In the strict sense the Mall of America is not a marketplace at all – the soul of a community expressed as a place – but rather a tourist attraction” (Gutterson, p.453). Gutterson showed this by indirectly citing several events happening in the mall as examples why it is classified as such.
There is also the instance wherein Gutterson points out different ways that malls have functioned during this time. He mentioned how people celebrate ceremonies that are not part of the overall qualities that a mall should function. “On Valentine’s Day last February – cashing in on the promotional scheme of a local radio station – ninety couples were married en masse in a ceremony at the Mall of America” (Gutterson, p.455)
It can be analyzed in here that people have been constantly shifting their preferences as to where such practices should be done. The sanctity of the ceremony seems to be disregarded by many at the expense of the material benefits it creates. Materialism slowly is creeping into values and practices and is constantly becoming unimportant in their lives. “A good many people in the churches,” said Krueger, “feel a lot of the trouble in the world is because of materialism” (Gutterson, p.456)
There is also the instance wherein Gutterson points out the way malls have continuously done these things however we are too blind to even recognize it because of the fact that we are enjoying the benefits it gives us. Gutterson shows this metaphorical analysis in his description of repeated commercials wherein in the end he feels disgusted already. “The brief, strange drama repeated itself until I can no longer stand it” (Gutterson, p.455) Here we constantly seek the temporary benefits brought about by malls. The question now is when we will learn to appreciate and question its true intention to our lives.
Gutterson gives another scenario wherein the Mall of America will have its descendants in the future. An event where larger malls shall be constructed to feed the need of citizens within societies can be a possibility in the future. The way society tolerates such atmosphere can create such event in the future. “The concept of shopping in a frivolous atmosphere, concocted to loosen consumers’ wallets is poised to proliferate globally” (Gutterson, p.456). This event can lead to every society having a Mall of America of their own to appease addicted mall rats. “We will soon see monster malls everywhere, rooted in the soil of every nation and offering a preposterous, impossible variety of commodities and entertainments” (Gutterson, p.456)
Then Gutterson traces back the way malls create a psychological feeling of desolation within an inpidual which is distracted by the materialism present inside. “Like the Mall of America and the West Edmonton Mall – prototypes for a new generation of shopping centers – they will project a separate and distinct reality in which an “outdoor café” is not outdoors, a “bubbling brook” is a concrete watercourse, and a serpentine street is a hallway” (Gutterson, p.456) It is through this that Gutterson points out the way malls create hallucinations and pretensions of what malls are capable of doing and shifting the conventional way of what marketplaces should be.
“But in time our marketplaces, all over the world, will be in essential ways interchangeable, so thoroughly porced from the communities in which they sit that they will appear to rest like permanently docked spaceships against a landscape, windowless and turned in upon their own affairs” (Gutterson, p.456).
In the end, Gutterson emphasizes on going back to the basics. This is done by leaving materialistic pleasures behind and savoring the real meaning of marketplaces. In the end he warned that if this pushes through then malls shall be “poised to multiply around the world as an institution offering only a desolate substitute for the rich, communal life blood of the traditional marketplace” (Gutterson, p.456-57) It is through these things that Gutterson sees how a mall has evolved over the years.
Gutterson, D. (n.d.) The Mall as Prison. Retrieved February 10, 2007.
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