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Half citizens (2): the mall

In shopping centers we can be considered citizens in half: we are allowed to circulate, but only at certain times, we are allowed to stay, but without disturbing, we are allowed to speak, but evidently without protest.


An almost infinite literature has described the typology of the shopping center as a new category of being in public in the contemporary city. The shopping center, born in the United States since the thirties of the twentieth century and of which the American architect Victor Gruen was its founding father and designer, soon became not only a shopping center, but a real covered city, at whose interior it is also possible to find churches, public offices, personal services, as well as cinemas and any other recreational activity.

In the air-conditioned and well-lit streets and squares of the mall it is almost impossible to find a corner, a small space that is not under the control of the security center, like a large panopticon.

There are no dark corners, as well as spaces taken away from central control: ultimately, control is almost entirely entrusted to the operator / manager and this makes the consumer unresponsive of any attention to others, other than control - often difficult in the rush hours - of your own personal space.

The social relationships that we can entertain in a shopping center are characterized by a minimal form of personal and social control, due to the essential control of personal spaces. It is not possible to informally take possession of some space that is not linked to the consumption of any good, even if it is possible to find more and more areas for rest (perhaps between one purchase and another) that recall materials and places in the city (such as benches, street lamps, small green spaces and fountains) for an alleged sociality.

In the shopping center we are first of all guests of a space built for a single purpose: the purchase.

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