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Today, I’m joined by the creative director at Gensler, Louis Schump. Louis has spent his career making progress in proving, demonstrating, and advocating for interiors to be on equal footing as exterior design. His design philosophy is rooted in defining problems and creating unique solutions, which is on full display in his work with the Westside Pavilion.
The Westside Pavilion is a former shopping mall located in West Los Angeles, California that is being repurposed into an office complex for Google. You might recognize the location from Clueless, but like most shopping centers, it’s been on a steady decline since the introduction of the internet. Louis breaks down how both malls and technology companies have changed over time, and what makes the Westside Pavilion project particularly unique. We discuss the challenges and advantages that the space presents, and Louis shares some details about the design vision and finishes.
We also talk more broadly about the downfall of malls. I give a brief history on the suburban staple and we chat about some potential solutions: Converting them into senior housing, offices, or constructing an intermix of industrial, commercial, retail, and residential functions. We round out the conversation by talking about Louis’ predictions about the future of brick-and-mortar retail and the role that augmented reality has in that.
Though Midwest born and raised, Louis Schump, creative director at Gensler, has spent the last 35 years in San Francisco. Over his career, designing buildings gave way to designing interiors, which was enhanced by furniture and experience design. He has worked at NBBJ, HOK, and Rapt Studio. As a creative director at Gensler, he is responsible for growing the firm’s portfolio, cultivating client relationships, and mentoring talent.
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[00:00:00] What goes into making an iconic building in America? What are the stories and who are the people behind the next generation of architecture? If your work touches the real estate industry in any way, or you’re just curious about what goes into one of a kind cities and towns all across our country, join us on the American Building Podcast.
In season two, we learned about everything from skyscrapers to single-family homes from the famous and soon-to-be-famous designers and developers responsible. This season focuses particularly on the pandemic and how our buildings will change in response. Our sponsor is the iconic design firm, Michael Graves Architecture and Design. And now, your host award-winning architect-turned-entrepreneur, Atif Qadir, AIA.
[00:01:09] Atif Qadir: This is American Building, and I’m your host, Atif Qadir. I’m the CEO of REDIST, a technology company focused on innovative public financing for real estate projects. We are recording from the historic home of world renowned architect, Michael Graves, in Princeton, New Jersey. Check out this amazing space for yourself at the Michael Graves Architecture and Design YouTube channel. Now, let’s build something.
Our guest is Louis shanks. Louis is a creative director for Gensler, the renowned design firm with 49 offices worldwide. He use based in their San Francisco location. He actually started his career at Gensler spending time afterwards at large design firms NBBJ and HOK, and then joined the design agency, rap studio.
He returned to Gensler in 2020 in the beginning of the. He was a graduate of Washington university and St. Louis. We will be talking about the west side pavilion project in Los Angeles, a major re-purposing of an urban shopping center as a new office complex for Google. More broadly. We’ll talk about the future of shopping malls in a world of Amazon financial distress, waning, coronavirus, variance, and the metaverse.
So, thank you so much for being there with us Lewis.
[00:02:34] Louis Schump: Oh, thanks for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this for awhile. So thanks again.
[00:02:38] Atif Qadir: Absolutely. So, as I mentioned your career, as a designer started as. And you recently returned in a new role as creative director. I’m so fascinated by this, this process.
So walk us down this path and what you learned in each step. Along
[00:02:54] Louis Schump: that process, it’s been a long path, so I’ll see if I can make it a little bit scenic and interesting. When I left Gensler. A little over 20 years ago, it firstname.lastname@example.org boom. And it was one of those situations where, you know, we literally could not keep up with our clients and their interest in sort of evolving their workplace to meet this new, exciting internet driven world.
And at one point I decided that that wasn’t enough. Personally, and for whatever reason, decided that I wanted to elevate interiors to a similar level of academic rigor slash. Appreciation is architecture. Um, and especially, and this is my, probably my big error, especially at architects. So when I left Gensler and went to NBBJ, we were doing mostly prime, mostly base building projects, healthcare, new office space, lab buildings, where the program of the interior really informed the exterior of the building and felt that, you know, both there and at HOK, I was making progress in.
Proving demonstrating, advocating for interiors to be on equal footing. And then as happens with many interior designers, I was asked to work on an office project for the firm, and it became clear that my strategy partner and I had not really made it clear what we did to the leadership of the office, or at least they weren’t willing to go along with.
The process that we were selling to clients. And I realized that it was, you know, did I realize, no, it wasn’t a realization. I had a midlife crisis. I was like, shit, you know, are we allowed to say shit that can be edited? Oh no. I realized that I needed to refocus that this idea of, of. Education was all well and good, but I needed to do something else.
So I started looking for opportunities that really focused on what the future of the profession would be. You know, we’d gone through another recession in 2008, 2009. And my experience was that, uh, the interior design and architecture profession stuck their head in the ground and waited for things to go back to normal.
I didn’t believe things would go back to normal. And I wanted to associate myself with an agency as it turned out that would be looking to redefine what our careers are, what our profession could be in the future. And that’s when I joined wrapped the switch from wrapped against Slayer was, and if you look on our website, if you look on the, against our website, you know, we use designed to make the world a better place.
It doesn’t say that we use architecture to make the world a better place. It doesn’t say that we use interior design to make the world a better place, but we use design and taking what I’ve learned over the last seven or eight years and applying it on the larger stage of Gensler with the reach that we have has been an amazing opportunity.
So super happy to be.
[00:06:10] Atif Qadir: Excellent. And in that concept of design and thinking broadly beyond architecture, um, how do you to find design and how would you describe the type of designer that.
[00:06:24] Louis Schump: I’ve given some hints in terms of the type of designer I am, but I say it probably at least twice a day. So 10 times a week that as a precursor, almost every conversation that design is the solution to an agreed upon problem and a huge amount of what I spend my time doing is making sure that the problem that we’re solving is the correct one or the appropriate one.
If one doesn’t believe in, correct. And I was thinking about this, uh, this, uh, conversation earlier and decided that the kind of designer that I am is firmly rooted in having been raised in the Midwest. I was raised Catholic outside of Chicago. And when. Uh, client says that they have this much money and this kind of expectation and this kind of schedule, I take those parameters extraordinarily seriously, sometimes too seriously because that’s the problem to be solved.
Right. And this is even before I had words to describe it. That mandate from a client is something that has always been the motivation for me, not what I thought the best idea would be independently, not what I’ve thought the most fashionable idea would be. Um, but again, what, what would be the solution to the challenge put in front of.
And I think
[00:07:46] Atif Qadir: that’s really fascinating what you’ve described that as this need of being able to define and spend time thinking about what a problem particularly is before diving headlong into drawings and solutions and strategies for clients. And I think that probably is a very apt way of describing architects as well, because as a subset of, of design in general, is that so much of what we do.
Is defined problems and solve those problems. Um, so I’m a hundred percent on board with that, that description.
[00:08:19] Louis Schump: I think, I mean, the challenge that, and I think, you know, the challenge that I give my teams every day is not to limit yourself to your expertise or your worldview. So the kind of creative director, I am more than the designers that I was will say is making sure that we have diverse and multidisciplinary team.
Assigned to project so that the, the definition of the problem is seen from multiple points of view and the prejudice that it’d be a brand solution and architecture solution or an interior design solution is at least for the time being set aside.
[00:08:58] Atif Qadir: Absolutely. So in your career, you have worked with many technology companies, including Google, and that’s the client for the west side, the ability to project, what we’ll be talking about today.
When I think of tech companies, I often think of now new changes. But looking across your work, how has the concept of what a technology company is actually changed over time?
[00:09:25] Louis Schump: That could be, that could be a 45 minute answer in and of itself. Um, when I, when I started technology, companies were essentially hardware companies, you know, Hewlett Packard or IBM, and they were. Housed in these enormous buildings, typically adjacent to some sort of manufacturing facility with rows and pawn rows of gray or slightly blue or slightly beige cubes.
That’s what technology companies were. They were hardware driven. Then these sort of weird. Creatures of Microsoft and apple came around where there is a, you know, this idea of software and what to software and hardware and how do they interact. And then, then the internet happened, right? So all of a sudden there was a new way of thinking about technology that was information delivery and not hardware delivery that changed what the workplace looked like tremendously, where those buildings were located, how people thought about the office.
Um, in terms of technology, they didn’t have to be in the suburbs adjacent to manufacturing. They could be downtown and be told and not be a sales organization that could be downtown and be an engineering organization. And then if you look at, you know, where we are today, every company is a technology company.
So that’s a big change from, you know, Hewlett Packard to FinTech and retail and architecture and design the fact that we could all move. And those of us who are extraordinarily fortunate, could all move home over a weekend and resume our jobs on Monday for two years.
[00:11:09] Atif Qadir: I think that’s something that is, is really excellent point is the fact that the definition.
Other technology companies change. And that, that even in a very small amount of time, two years, that has rapidly changed as well. So I think that probably has informed your work and I’m thinking one of the other big influences is the city that you live in San Francisco. So San Francisco is, was in the news all the time.
People love to hate on San Francisco. But talk to me about, as a designer, you think about the defining of problems and the solid. On multiple scales talking about how you would approach San Francisco and particularly the challenges that it faces in terms of homelessness and the very tight issue of affordability.
How do you think of that as a designer in terms of identifying the problem and starting the.
[00:12:02] Louis Schump: Super good question. And the answer I’m going to do. I think I’m going to use two very different scaled answers. One, one sort of pragmatic and current, really current it’s super expensive to live here. People who, and we have really good food, right?
Lots of restaurants, really good food, but the people who work there could not afford to live in the city and because of the pandemic. Patronage of restaurants went down and the ability to get to and from work decreased and the expense increased. So, you know, two years later, restaurants are coming back.
People are beginning to go out to eat again. And in order to get people to come back to work, restaurant owners have had to. Change schedules. They’ve had to close two days a week so that people could have a predictable work-life balance. They had to start paying more money for those people to come back to work.
They had to pay more money to have the food delivered to their restaurants. And as a result, every time I go out to eat, now, I spend twice what I used to spend per person before the pandemic. Um, it doesn’t matter the type of food, everything literally costs twice as much money, but we’re paying. For the actual cost of that surface.
So if I segue into. You know what it means at a larger scale for the city? We do not like change people. Don’t like change one of the hardest parts about my career is that everything I do involves change. So we don’t like to build new houses. ’cause new housing would change our neighborhoods. People always ask me, am I in pro a particular project or not was like, and my response, and as plight away, as I can figure out how to say it is, think about what I do for a living.
I. In, you know, enthusiastic about change. And I said, you know, I’m often employed by an architecture firm doing interior design and other things. Of course, I’m for this project change is inevitable. We need to grow as a city. If we keep on having children. We need to allow those children someplace to live and not a labor under the myth of the ever expanding frontier, where the next generation can just go out and populate.
Whatever that thing is out there, you know, around the west coast, there is nothing out there. We’re, we’re at the edge. And I think that, that, that reluctance to embrace change the, I think you and I discussed it previously, the notion that, you know, the conservationist or the environmentalist is the person who bought their country place last year and that, that kind of myopia and self-serving liberalism makes me crazy.
So I’m very happy to pay twice as much for dinner because it’s supporting an ecosystem that’s required.
[00:15:02] Atif Qadir: Yeah. And I think in particular, this fascination with cost as the thing that we optimize around in time as a thing that we optimize around with our bins purchases, rather than say, I mean, the idea of redundancy and having multiple ways of getting things in order for long-term flexibility with suppliers.
Means that we were left bereft of issues of like things that we actually needed. I very quickly when certain parts of our transportation system fell apart. And I, for one, I think I would agree with you that I don’t particularly need to have, uh, avocados in the winter or, uh, apples in the spring or bananas at anytime of the year.
If that means that we’re able to have a more logical, sustainable. Flexible supply chain. So we actually get the things that we need. So I totally agree.
[00:15:55] Louis Schump: It’s complicated, but I think that we, we need to accept that. And I hadn’t really thought about this before. We need to accept the fact that we need, um, spend our way to responsibility.
And I think that too often in my industry, There’s this myth that you can spend your way to sustainability? No, you bought, you spend more on systems. You do all this amazing stuff. And somehow that makes it all go away. But no, we need to, we need to spend more. Yeah.
[00:16:27] Atif Qadir: And then speaking of spending money, it’s a funny transition.
So the west side pavilion project. So it’s located in that clinic, former shop. In the Rancho park neighborhood and LA, uh, tell us about this area and the site in particular and what makes them
[00:16:47] Louis Schump: unique? It’s it’s changed actually when the mall was first. Well, that side of that mall was the original first drive-in movie theater in Los Angeles.
Um, before that had been a native American campground and site subsequent to that many people know the west side through the Lillian from Tom Petty’s. What was that song? Any song free free-flowing tree falling. Thank you. Which is, it turns out a little known tidbit of information. It takes as long to walk from one end to the west side pavilion to the other as it takes that song to play.
[00:17:27] Atif Qadir: So it’s about four minutes, five minutes, four and a half minutes. What happened?
[00:17:32] Louis Schump: Uh, 40 minutes, 45 or 50 seconds depending on your gate.
[00:17:36] Atif Qadir: Got it. Okay. Oh, there’s also in clueless
[00:17:38] Louis Schump: as well, right? It was in clueless top of the escalator scene, I think is iconic when it comes to that. But what makes the, the neighborhood particularly interesting now is that it’s served by the Metro rail in Los Angeles.
It’s at the intersection of Pico and Westwood. So UCLA to the north. The Metro rail to the south, um, the 4 0 5, which for those of you who’ve been to Los Angeles is a major north, south freeway, just a west of the site. So it’s both with the exception of very few. Uh, commercial buildings, mostly residential neighborhood, easily accessible to the university, mass transit and car transportation.
And at least, and this is the flash forward, but one of the things that makes it unique, it’s one of the few large scale office developments that are relatively close to the beach, which is where technology companies have tended to migrate. Santa Monica, Venice, Santa Monica, Playa Vista.
[00:18:48] Atif Qadir: Okay. And then the property is on by Hudson Pacific and master rich and is being leased by Google.
What was the prompt that they gave you and how did you go. Putting together design strategy and response. I’m thinking this is a bit of defining a problem and clarifying it before starting.
[00:19:10] Louis Schump: Well, I’m going to start, not necessarily with the prompt, but with the context. So, as I said, it was an it’s a residential neighborhood Pico on the north side of the property and residential neighborhood to the south, like all shopping malls.
It was a windowless box. Four and a half minutes to walk from one end to the other on the sidewalk next to a windowless box. Um, and when you looked out of your house to the north, you would see a windowless box, four stories tall with shipping and receiving facing your backyard. So one of the challenges was how do we in converting this building become a better neighbor.
How do we support the community and how did the design moves that we need to make and converting this windowless box into an office building be used to support both the community outside of the site and inside the site. So that was, that was basically the challenge and how we did that. Revolved around all the things that you’d expect to happen.
We needed to put in new systems. You know, what you need for an office space in the 21st century is not what you needed for a shopping mall in the eighties we needed to re-skin the entire bill. We need to think about the role that the outdoors would play in that building. And one of the sort of anomalies of this particular site is that there’s an easement that runs from Pico to the parking lot in the back that goes into the building.
So you essentially have a street running through this office building that connects speaker, which is at one level to the parking that’s one level lower. The challenge was twofold. Again, you know, community and the structure. Okay.
[00:20:59] Atif Qadir: And what would you say are, or help us get a sense of the scale of the project?
So you mentioned the four and a half minutes, and let’s talk about the square footage and some of the other things. So get an understanding of how massive this project.
[00:21:16] Louis Schump: It’s really, truly impossible to understand when you’re, when you’re not there, but it’s about 600,000 square feet of space, 584,000 to be exact. I think while there are more parking spaces that are attached to the property, uh, the roof parking and the underground parking is sufficient for at least a thousand cars.
There are four elevator banks in this building each with its own set of restrooms, plus a few random restrooms elsewhere. So there, there are essentially four courses. To this building, as I said, one floor next to the easement between Pico and the back of the building. There’s one fairly windowless floor that has been a challenge, both from a development point of view, but also from leasing perspective and then three full floors above that each about 150,000 square feet.
[00:22:11] Atif Qadir: And tell us what stage you are in the development process so far.
[00:22:16] Louis Schump: So Google is, um, the base building conversion is virtually. Uh, Google is, uh, working to make modifications and install their tenant improvements within that structure. Some of those were prenegotiated. Uh, some are in process. Currently that project is expected to be done in early 2020.
[00:22:37] Atif Qadir: Okay. And then in terms of the finishes that folks would expect, and like the look in the field, uh, walking through almost to get an understanding of what that inside would be particularly focused on the elevator scene, including influence how this would be transformed.
[00:22:54] Louis Schump: So the world of pink stucco.
Diagonally plays turquoise tiles has been replaced with, well, one, a complete floor to ceiling, you know, window wall that wraps the building. The interior atrium has been removed for the two thirds of its length and replaced with an outdoor courtyard. Some of that is some of that atrium still interior.
The mall frontage is that funded that had been removed and replaced with full high class. So that as you walk through the building, whether it’s the outdoor courtyard or through the inside atrium, you look to the left and the right, and you can see all the way through the building from parking on the south or the loading docks on the south to Pico on the north, the finishes are, you know, kind of what you’d expect for early 20th century office building it’s, you know, vertical louvers to deal with some of the.
Solar gain on both the north and south side, because it’s positioned such a way that in the summer, the sun is actually on the quote unquote north side of the building, um, overhang, setback, glass. This building had the additional challenge of having changes of level, uh, of slopes. So every on the second and third floor, every 50 to 70 feet, there’s a change of level that ranges from 18 to 30 inches.
[00:24:17] Atif Qadir: So that means there’s a step up in many different places.
[00:24:20] Louis Schump: Are there ramps along the atrium and steps within the space or ramps within the space, depending on how the interior God laid out.
[00:24:28] Atif Qadir: Got it. Was there any thoughts around digging it out or dividing spaces along that.
[00:24:36] Louis Schump: Not taking nap because it would change the structural system of the building.
We did look at extending those levels to places that made more sense, both from an exiting and access point of view. And that’s been implemented the divisions between those spaces. We assumed it would be up to the tenant. Got it.
[00:24:55] Atif Qadir: So I’m going to take, or not in case if someone was interested in leasing the entire space,
[00:25:02] Louis Schump: correct.
Which Google ended up to. Which
[00:25:05] Atif Qadir: we’ll end up doing. And then are there accommodations for retail at any particular locations or the entire thing is Googles and they’re all kind of subdivide as they wish
[00:25:15] Louis Schump: in the conversations with the city and with the neighborhood, there are provisions for in terms of entitlements and parking.
There are provisions for retail and restaurant on the ground floor. There, you know, Google is very actively involved, partially based, not partially based, but leveraging the work they’ve already done in New York. Uh, in terms of pier 39 and Chelsea market are actively engaged in creating public friendly, active.
Urban, uh, retail and food service environments. And as far as I know, they intend to do a version of that in Los Angeles.
[00:26:01] Atif Qadir: That’s something that’s been really successful in New York, uh, with urban space. And I think that’s been replicated in a number of other places that are now my last year of work from home road trip travels all across America.
I’ve seen, uh, replicated in other places.
[00:26:21] Louis Schump: Well, and it goes to the larger, you know, we talked a little bit about the neighborhood being a residential neighborhood and, you know, I, I did have personal memories of going with friends to the west side pavilion when I was younger. And it was, it really was a destination and an isolated place. And it was the story I usually tell is that we would wait in line for valet parking, even though there was parking on the street.
Because that’s what you did in LA. When you were going to the mall, you had to park in the mall with a valet to have that full experience. And what’s changed over time is the notion that this is part of a neighborhood it’s not separate from a neighborhood. The spaces on and around the building are outside.
They’re not just parking. The street is an opportunity while Los Angeles, you know, walking. Okay. Relegated to particular neighborhoods. No, it is just in very particular places, you know? And how do you, how do you allow that sensibility to really change? And especially in times of COVID where. And this is based on, you know, Gensler has a research Institute and we do research at all different scales, both in the built environment, in the experiential realm.
And one of the things we’ve found consistently before the pandemic and even more so after the pandemic is the desire to create multi use. Mixed use environments. People don’t want to live only in places where people are living and they don’t want to work only where people are working. They want don’t want to have to drive to a place that’s specifically only for shopping.
They’d rather have these things proximate to one another, if it’s possible.
[00:28:16] Atif Qadir: And I think in particular, what that really lends itself to is this very timeless. Of of cities, particularly ancient ones that continued to kind of rave and have life to them. Whether mean like from Karachi to Bombay, to Jerusalem, to Athens, Istanbul, that a lot of what makes them so vibrant.
Interesting. There walkability the interweaving and all those like secret alleys that you go through in order to discover like the best falafel or like the best of bill flurry or the best of bonds or anything else. And I think the more of that fabric that can be installed in a place like LA, I think the better
[00:28:55] Louis Schump: agreed.
And I think that goes to a larger reality that we’re beginning to accept is that people want these places to feel alive. They want. To see other people, they want to feel safe, but you know, the way I describe it is that they want it to feel alive. When you go downtown at night, it should feel alive, not dead.
[00:29:23] Atif Qadir: I’m going to take a break here to let our listeners know that we will be having Matt, Jim eco of national development company, Avalon bay communities on the show notes. When we record from the south by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, and make sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, wherever you like to listen.
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shopping malls. So I am from all malls, all malls and their, their heart is all birth in this state, New Jersey American dream metal lens. That’s 3 million square feet Westfield garden state Plaza, 2.3 million squared. Freehold Raceway 1.7 million square feet. These are really big. So in your process of imagining what it is also very large project by west, the west side pavilion could be talk about some malls that stand out for, for you in your research process, as you are helping to define this problem.
[00:31:20] Louis Schump: So I only talk in stories. So as we are researching, The let’s say precedent for, you know, malls being converted to other things. All of us look back upon our mall experiences as, as kids. Right? So, um, the, not as big as the ones you mentioned, I grew up near a mall called Yorktown, which edits, uh, Opening in 1968 was the largest interior shopping mall in the country.
And as you’d expect blank, you know, exposed aggregate precast panel exterior, surrounded by acres and acres and acres of parking. A few miles away from that was a shopping center called Oakbrook center. Which was developed in 1962 and was an outdoor shopping mall experience, much more akin to Santana row and other sort of exterior oriented shopping malls with housing nearby, if not on top.
And I remember growing up as a kid that while Oakbrook was nicer and the stores were better, it wasn’t air conditioned. The outside was not air conditioned. So people started gravitating to this controlled windowless environment of, of the Yorktown mall. So as we were looking at, you know, what were the challenges of converting a shopping center, you know, classic.
600,000 square foot, those small by your standards in New Jersey, demeanor to 600,000 square foot shopping mall to, um, to office it’s like, how do we, how do we balance those two desires, one for a controlled interior experience, but two the opportunity to readily access or access the outdoors. And that became, that became the challenge.
[00:33:28] Atif Qadir: And I think they’re, uh, looking back over time, there are examples of retail converts at other uses at many different scales and my different really unique ways. One of the things in particular is the Galleria in Providence, which I think was actually the honor of being the very first indoor retail, uh, complex in the country.
I would have been in the 18 early 18 hundreds. And, uh, that was converted to. Uh, kept free telling the ground floor office above that, and then residential above that. And I think being able to waver layer in and do a lot of these different things is really interesting. I think it becomes harder and harder on projects of your scale.
Uh, one I, I learned I’ve in particular recently was, uh, the Gwinnett place mall, which is in Georgia. And are you a fan of stranger?
[00:34:14] Louis Schump: Oh, yes, not necessarily. I am an intermittent fan that’s for the season. Two
[00:34:21] Atif Qadir: finale was a film and the Gwinnett place mall. Uh, and what is so iconic about it is that in 2017, towards the end of its life, it took the police about two weeks to find the dead body in the mall.
I was so empty and there were so many. Ins and outs of things that, that was the reality of this incredibly empty retail expense, but being able to inject some amount of life monies into shopping malls is as an informed part of this transformation. What I find really fascinating is my, a aunt in Toronto, which also has plenty of shopping malls.
And she has said every time that I meet her, her great idea for the past 10 years, I think she was right on. Is she said that she goes to moles or around her name is three or four round her she’ll meet other Indian aunties and uncles and go for power walks for about an hour around the mall. Um, they’ll sit down and have chai snacks and then typically go for another walk and do a little shopping and then go home in time for lunch.
Turn empty shopping malls and to senior housing. And then also include a daycare because she has grandchildren. So she said, why not let my kids drop off their, their kids here? I can go check in on them a couple of times a day, hang out with my friends from the kitty club. That’s what Indian Nazis called there at the parties.
And then everyone’s happy. And I think she has, she’s really onto something on
[00:35:53] Louis Schump: that one. No, I agree with you. So what are we going to do about that?
[00:35:58] Atif Qadir: So I think actually Simon property group has started doing conversions to the senior housing. I think that that’s, that’s the doorstep of what we’re on right now.
Not only in terms of opportunity, but because of demand because the aging of the. So I think we’re going to see that. I think my aunt’s finally gonna have her dream dream dream.
[00:36:17] Louis Schump: Well, good for her. I mean, because I think that there is, you know, those co-locations are classic, right? The senior housing, my son went to a, a school here in San Francisco that was located behind a senior housing complex and they had the volunteer day.
The kids would go over and, you know, present their artwork to the. To the senior citizens and the senior citizens would read them stories and they would have little bake-offs and it was an amazing, amazing cooperative situation. And I think that w when. And while there have been many, a shopping mall that had been converted to office space, some to school, some to community colleges, the idea that, you know, many of them are large enough where they could do all of the above.
And it’s the, the inertia of our code and zoning rules that prevent some of these, you know, radical, uh, logical ideas from occurring.
[00:37:18] Atif Qadir: And I think particularly as a city planning commissioner in Hoboken, This very like the dactic idea that these are the rules and we should follow the rules. And oftentimes the variances are the places where you find the most interesting things that actually happens.
So I was in Georgetown for a couple of weeks in January, so in DC area, and what I found so fascinating is the fact that Georgetown had grown organically over time around this, you know, And just freaking Ohio. And what was so interesting is the smaller scale of building was typically around the canal and that allowed for these really unique alleyway type cobblestone paths that actually had retail.
It opened right up onto those paths. So if you were driving, you wouldn’t have noticed these, you had to be walking through to be able to enjoy these amazing restaurants. Amazing. Really cool hip furniture stores and art stores. And I think that level of formality is what makes us face. Like I remember it now versus say places that I’m all I don’t personally remember because,
[00:38:24] Louis Schump: and how do we, you know, how do we as a culture, as we learn more and more about things that used to be intuitive, so we can now prove.
Category that you can mention what was intuitive or made sense to our grandparents or great-grandparents can now be proven to be true, but our institutions, how do we help them catch up with that? Because it’s. You know, I, I live in a neighborhood in San Francisco. That is, you know, it feels like a village, right?
It’s it’s located, there’s a street that runs through it. It’s in the valley between two Hills. There are houses on Hills. You go down to the bottom of the hill, there’s a Bart station and a grocery store, a library, a really good pizza place. A bar to a hardware store. And it’s the proximity of those things, as opposed to, uh, further part, you know, further west in San Francisco, there are neighborhoods that are 100% city beautiful turnover.
Last century, entirely residential and beautiful curving streets with nice big lawns. And there’s never that bad life that happens by going. No one describes it at those neighborhoods. This village there just. How’s it. So I
[00:39:48] Atif Qadir: want to dial it back a little bit. So we talked about some of the big malls in New Jersey, which are relatively recent construction.
I want to share with our listeners the fascinating history of malls and America. So they were the brainchild of architect. Victor grin an immigrant to the United States from Austria, and he designed the first outfit. Suburban shopping mall in 1954. And that was in Michigan. Uh, his second mall was built a few years later and Minnesota, and that was the first indoor shopping mall and the six decades after suburban mega malls or built at the clip of about 25 per year and half of those 1500 or so.
I have already closed now. And another quarter are expected closing in the next five years. And from your perspective, your experience, your vast purview of malls as a mall expert, now
help us understand how shopping malls became what they are. Today. So at the point where it was the height of coolness, like you’d mentioned Yorktown and place, people go to this decrepit state that we are now in, which is the fate of many, many empty malls across the country. What happened?
[00:41:17] Louis Schump: Oh, so the pendulum swing.
Right. So I’m thinking definitively older than you are. And when I was growing up, it was at the end of that post-World war II, Exodus from urban decay, racism, proximity to industrial functions, all those things that after the second world war people felt that they could escape by moving to the suburbs.
You know, I was a white kid growing up in suburban Chicago and many of my friends and eyes longed for nothing other than to go back to the city. So we, we had our prom for high school downtown at the Palmer has hotel in Chicago. Um, this is a really beautiful. It’s you? Yeah, fantastic. I would ask my dad every Christmas and this is probably way too much information, but I would ask for a trip downtown Chicago to visit new apartment buildings and other buildings.
So I could collect their floor plans. And so, you know, off, I went to school and after school, all of my friends and I did not repatriate to the suburbs, we all moved to cities. And I think that even as people started having children and moving out of the city proper, it was to places like Montclair, New Jersey, more Palo Alto, California, or silver lake Los Angeles, where the, as we’ve been discussing earlier, There was a, a lively intermixing of industrial commercial retail and residential functions.
Typically at least ostensively with some range of socioeconomic and racial diversity, as those places became more popular, that diversity diminished, which is, you know, one of the problems that we’re beginning to focus on. You know, as a country and a society today, but I think that’s what happened to shopping malls, right?
It’s like we’re shopping malls to grew in vision. We’re a social destination in the wasteland of single family housing in, you know, stamp yards. They were not attractive to my generation. Uh, not as a social place, not as a cool place, not. Literally the only reason, you know, for many decades that I went to a shopping mall was like the, the IMAX or some amazing movie that was only showing there.
And it was the, the evolution of the shopping mall from sort of consumption of goods to the consumption of entertainment that extended their life for as long as they.
[00:44:12] Atif Qadir: Yeah, until the entertainment, the chain of focus on the home environment. So grew in the head, I think in my heart grew and had really meant well, and what’s so fasting is a fast company.
[00:44:25] Louis Schump: I’m just thinking there’s so many people, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The
[00:44:30] Atif Qadir: fast company did a really good analysis of what the intentions and the realization was and what they described as that, uh, and wanted to import. Pedestrian experience of modernist European cities like Vienna and Paris and to America.
But the automobile is king by creating places for community in the deserts of suburbia. As you mentioned, he had hoped to lure people away from their cars and into contact with one another. And he hoped that the walls would be places for shopping. Yes, but also for. For relaxation for greenspace and then his most, his original first conceptions, the mall would also be a place to connect your residential.
Other commercial uses like medical care and community uses like libraries and public spaces. So what’s so fascinating is because of the toxic soup of entitlements and very risk averse capital that we ended up. The, the key piece that was necessary in order to translate this was detaching the automobile from this experience.
But when the automobile was the key way that people got there, and that was the way that a malls were organized, we ended up with these relatively mano, use a space. That now are being transformed to accommodate some of these original multi-use ideas that I grew in had.
[00:46:00] Louis Schump: I think that that’s all true. I was thinking of the example of the Stanford shopping center, uh, here in Northern California and the open-mindedness with which Palo Alto.
The zoning of that mall is in direct proportion to the sales tax revenue that flows back into that city. And that sea of parking has, you know, gradually diminished over the years because the real estate for retail is too valuable. So re you know, retail is now being built on top of the parking lot. But it’s, it’s a formula that I think because of its proximity to Stanford and its proximity to downtown Palo Alto and the light.
And while it’s not a light rail, it’s the commuter rail train. There’s an incentive. For open-mindedness, you know, the Palo Alto, the Stanford medical center is directly south of Stanford mall housing for doctors and patients is directly across the street and half a block from the shopping center that has a whole foods.
[00:47:10] Atif Qadir: That’s the future. I think that’s absolutely
[00:47:13] Louis Schump: economic
[00:47:14] Atif Qadir: it’s economic as well. Yes. So then given all of these experiences and examples and intentions and realizations that we’ve talked about, how would you give someone or what is the toolkit that you would give somebody to say? I have a really crappy mall, whether it’s the one with the dead body that took two it’s defined.
So why don’t I do what’s the job? What’s the process.
[00:47:39] Louis Schump: Well, we talked about it a little bit, right? In the sense that you’re taking an object that was inwardly focused and making it outwardly friendly, if not outwardly focused. So glass is the first element of your toolkit. The realization that decentralized cores is to your benefit is the second thing, you know, to take away from at least my experience so far.
The third, I think the third is more aspirational, but because the systems have to be new, what challenges to the hermetically sealed office building can we make, as we convert a mall into an office space, can the windows open? Can we insert light Wells that allow for conventions? Sure can, you know, what are all the things that we can do?
Because we have the advantage of a huge percentage. Well, over 50% of our carbon footprint is being reduced by reusing one of those structures. So what can we afford to experiment with or what can we afford to invest in that we couldn’t otherwise.
[00:48:54] Atif Qadir: Interesting. And now taking the other end, rather than the idea of converting malls, what do you see as the future of retail more generally?
So for example, omni-channel or talking about bricks and mortar for, e-commerce talk about where your head’s at, beyond balls up.
[00:49:15] Louis Schump: So I have a cheat sheet here, um, from the aforementioned Gensler research Institute, we just published our design forecast for 2022. And there’s a retail component to that. And most of what.
The future of retail looks like, at least from our research perspective is one of choice and one of agility and one of meeting people literally where they are. So the idea of pop-ups and mobile, but also culturally, where they are, whether it’s an in-person shopping experience or a. You know, augmented reality shopping experience that’s adjacent or embedded or virtual reality shopping experience that may need a space to host it.
Those are all looking very seriously at the range of demographics that are consumers and meeting them where they are. And designing for the world in which they live, whether that world is physical, virtual or augmented. So that’s, that’s sort of at the store level. I think, you know, more, and again, we’ve talked about this previously, but the idea that retail is part of the mixed use environment in it’s an experience and not just a place.
[00:50:29] Atif Qadir: I think that feels like the tying thread, whether you’re talking about west side pavilion, mall renovations to senior housing and other uses or retail more general. I think that’s an excellent place for us to, to wrap up. Thank you so much for joining us today on the American building podcast Lewis,
[00:50:48] Louis Schump: it’s been a pleasure.
I’ve enjoyed your conversation.
[00:50:51] Atif Qadir: Absolutely. Thank you. And listeners, if you want to hear the behind the scenes stories of how iconic buildings in our country were designed. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, iTunes, Google anchor, Stitcher, or wherever you like to listen, you can rate and review us on iTunes to help us reach a wider audience and follow us on Instagram.
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