Living in a Mall: A situated perspective on the suburbs

Writing and design by me, with exerpted sources


How does it feel to live in a mall? The late-20th century built environment was spawned amid the height and fall of the United States consumerist empire. Although these cultural patterns extend much beyond the landmass of North America, the pure expression of certain capitalist ideals can be seen in the eerily self-similar sprawl of suburbia across the United States. Most purely, these logics are blatantly present in the construction of the West coast, the “final frontier” of American colonial expansion, and the newest developments found there.

At CalArts, I found myself situated in one such place, which could stand in for a number of places. Valencia was planned in the 1960s, and developed since then. It formed decidedly after the expansion of mass-culture and consumerism of the mid 20th century.

As an outsider entering this world, I oscillated between incredulity, hatred, endearment, and many other feelings about this place and living there for three years. Essentially, we have a love-hate relationship. Beyond my own specificity as a person and situated perspective, I also have had the unique experience of being a pedestrian in a place almost forcibly car-centric. This was an incomplete documentation of my views personal documentation of the place in photos and writing, as well as what I’ve been reading to try to understand it better.