Emily Badger of Atlantic Cities traces the origin of the shopping mall to Victor Gruen, writing in Progressive Architecture about it in 1952. The first modern enclosed suburban shopping mall was in fact Southfield Mall in Minneapolis, built in 1956. What is most interesting is what Badger writes about what malls were supposed to do:
Read it all at The Shopping Mall Turns 60 (and Prepares to Retire)
As we imagine ways to repurpose these aging monoliths and what the next generation of retail should look like, it’s worth recalling Gruen’s odd legacy. He hated suburbia. He thought his ideas would revitalize cities. He wanted to bring urban density to the suburbs. And he envisioned shopping malls as our best chance at containing sprawl....Gruen wanted to create better versions of the American downtown in the suburbs. He wanted these places to be civic centers as much as commercial ones, with day cares, libraries, post offices, community halls and public art. He wanted the shopping mall to be for suburbia what the public square was to old European cities.