Monday, 23 March 2009

Malls R Us, The Walkable City, and What to Do Now

When I was working on The Walkable City, my neighbor up the street Helene Klodawsky was traveling around the world as she prepared her film Malls R Us. We’d compare notes when we met on the street (one of the advantages of living in a walkable neighborhood) and I’ve been looking forward with relish to the film’s release.

It is showing twice this week as one of the films in competition at the Festival international du film sur l’art (FIFA) after having an initial screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of the series Canadian Front. It definitely should be worth checking out: Thursday, March 26 at 6:30 p.m. and Friday, March 28, also at 6:30 p.m. at the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

The Walkable City has a chapter on malls and what they—and suburban development in general—did to cities in the second half of the 20th century. One of the 21st century's major concerns is going to be what to do now that it’s clear we can’t continue driving everywhere. On the weekend, The Globe and Mail’s architecture critic Lisa Rochon noted that the vast monument projects of the last 20 years are not going to be repeated, if only because the financial resources to build them have disappeared.

“In North America, the biggest challenge will come in reinventing a suburban landscape marred by boarded-up houses, old-style shopping malls and big-box retailers,” Rochon wrote. “The stars obsessed over one-off, showy works of architectural sculpture. A new generation is required to consider new questions: How to negotiate the future of the bloated suburban house in light of changing demographics and a desire for intimate communities? “

Shopping mall or shopping street, in other words. More on this after we see Helene’s film at the end of the week.

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