Malls, the modern covered bazaars, are an important feature of modern urban settlements, and are known to dominate the local skyline, consume extensive energy and other natural resources, essentially for consumerist purposes. From Regional Malls to Strip Malls to Big Box to Indoor Malls and now, to Outdoor Malls, the malls have evolved considerably in the role they play in the local community.

As the call for sustainable structures gets louder, the mall architects have been exploring designs, concepts and materials to make these structures more community friendly and sustainable.

The role of Malls in modern day society
Modern malls are places of business and trade, associated with shopping or retail. They are also the centre of communications with major public transport hubs such as train or bus stations. Public buildings including town halls, museums and libraries are often found in here. As town centres were in the olden days, malls today are symbolic to settlements as a whole and often contain the best examples of architecture, main landmark buildings, statues and public spaces associated with a place.

Suburban America and the first Malls
Victor Greun (1903-1980), a Jewish refuge from Vienna, is the man behind some of the biggest American Malls. His vision of the mall was to create community centres similar to the ones in Europe, where the central court was typically surrounded by sculptures, fountains and seating facilities.

Over time, as malls proliferated, the social and community role of these vast commercial spaces declined and they became essentially consumerist in nature.

The evolution of Mall Architecture
While early mall architecture was aimed at making the mall stand out, today’s mall architecture seeks to be woven into the local fabric and yet must retain a unique identity. The efforts are on to take the parking lots out of the public view.

Further, there is currently a shift from indoor malls to outdoor ones. Architecturally, the older indoor malls looked inwards and had essentially blank exteriors. With the shift towards natural light and need for the outdoors on the rise, the new malls are looking for ways to incorporate the outdoors into their core design. Atriums, skylights, road facing shops, car-parks that lead directly into the shopping area are all experiments in this direction.

The architects of new malls are working on making these huge developments more sustainable, more green. While it is not an easy task, a look at the materials and technologies being used in the construction are sure to make a positive impact on the urban carbon footprint of the future.