“The newest shopping centres today are the ultimate pleasure domes. Complete with aquariums, in-door skiing, ice-skating, theme parks, plastic surgery clinics and more where “mirrored columns and walls further fragment the scene shattering the mall into a kaleidoscope of ultimately unreadable images. Confusion proliferates at every level; past and future collapse meaninglessly into the present; barriers between real and fake, newer and far, dissolve as history, nature, technology, are indifferently processed by the mall’s fantasy machine. Yet this implausible, seemingly random, collection of images has been assembled with an explicit purpose: to support the mall’s claim to contain the entire world within its walls.”

Margret Crawford
Architectural theorist





  • Allison Crank


A huge part of public space in daily life is retail environments and cultural spaces. At the same time, public life is proliferating through the use of social media, the internet, reddit boards and the like. We swipe right, like, comment, tweet, share and cultivate our public personas through screens. At present, there is a clear barrier between our physical environment and those little black devices, but this division will become less defined as technology advances through the tools of augmented, virtual and mixed realities and architecture becomes more “phygital.”

Shopping architecture plays a huge role in defining public life, not only are they places to “see and be seen,” but these places in play an integral role in defining local culture. The agora, stores, pleasure gardens, malls, cafes and taverns have frequently been the backdrop for dating culture, new connections, meeting friends, the start of political uprisings or the birth cultural movements. Online shopping, although it may expedite consumption more effectively, still largely lacks this public role.

In order to compete with e-commerce, future-oriented architects must rethink the notion of the store, cafe, agora, and shopping architecture in this digital era as a new platform that combines the benefits of emerging technologies with the theatrics of public space. Where atoms and pixels blend to create new kinds of architecture and layered stories for a “mixed reality” future. As this develops over the next century, so too will the role of the architect, designing systems where brick and mortar merges with data and voxels.