CommArts’ Crossroads City doesn’t offer a fully realized design for the mall of the future, but it does lay the groundwork for what that mall will consist of. Malls will not only generate sales, they will “grow food, create crafts, manufacture products, generate energy, and provide education.” As an antidote to time spent online, argue the CommArts folks, the mall becomes a social center, a “spectacle of hands-on demos, lectures, performances, classes, tastings, parties, and shows.” Further, the national sameness we now experience (Gap? Check. Victoria’s Secret? Check.) will morph into something more one-off, more local, more cause-oriented.
In fact, I’ve already seen something akin to Crossroads City implemented on a neighborhood scale. The Ainsworth Collective, a group of some 50 households in Portland, Oregon’s Cully neighborhood that came together out of a mutual interest in sustainability and community, have created a micro-economy within their few square blocks. They’ve published a directory of services provided by neighbors (from tax preparation to massage services to cat-sitting), encouraging local transactions. They’ve instituted tool-sharing, car-sharing, bulk food-purchasing and even own a farmer’s market that sells produce, baked goods and other items made by its members. There may always be mega-malls, but developers and architects would be remiss in not exploring grassroots solutions like this.