Parkings and shopping centers, a challenge since the 50s

Parkings and shopping centers, a challenge since the 50s

Shopping centers seem to be a very modern invention but, as almost everything that characterizes consumer society of the XXI century, has its roots in the United States of the 60’s. It was Victor Gruen, an architect from Viena who immigrated to America, who designed shopping malls in the 50’s. He thought of shopping centers as communal spaces for pedestrians where they could have access to a wide variety of services. They pretended to emulate European cities and face the individualization of suburban America that was emerging at that time.

And it’s in this suburban America where mobility challenges that we are facing nowadays are born. Thanks to Parking Network we discover an article written on 1958 by Stephen M. Sutherland, geography professor at Oklahoma, entitled ‘Shopping Center Parking Problems’. That’s an issue that still concerns shopping center operators and companies that manufacture solutions for car parks mobility (parking guidance system, LED lighting, energy efficiency…), such as Circontrol, which offers a solution also designed for shopping malls.

In its article Sutherland includes the existence of a parking as a condition to consider the establishment as a shopping center and its structure as a factor of success for this shopping center. We are at the moment of automobile popularization. While reading the article it seems that Sutherland’s concerns are basic but we should think that they were the first people who faced mobility challenge that surround us nowadays and that they didn’t have our advanced technologies. There were no Parking Guidance Systems, light indicators, LED lighting… And yet he arises aspects such as parking turnover and the time spent in the parking. They are also concerned with aspects such as parking size, location and pattern and simple or multi-level parking. These may seem basic issues but we should think that they were the first parking ever designed and that, sometimes, coming back to think about the basics could help us to find a better planning for our projects.

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