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Are you serious, Glendale?
by Katy Purviance on 05/21/08 @ 09:07:54 am
Categories: Observations | 610 words | 1384 views

So for Mother’s Day, we went to go see “Son of Rambow” at this new theatre where my sister works.

This new theatre is in this new outdoor mall in Glendale. It’s called (are you sitting down?) “The Americana.” Which is about the least imaginative name I think I have ever heard.

(Did they come up with a contest? Who can come up with a name, any name, the fastest?)

So it’s got these promenades that line high-end shops. There’s some high-end condos on top of the high-end shops. In the middle, there’s this large park-like are. And a fountain (of course).

The shops and condos are supposed to represent different eras of architecture throughout American history, my sister told us.

I didn’t see any plantations or teepees, no Okie shacks or adobe beauties. Aside from the Eiffel Tower-esque elevator mechanism and the large gold cupola plopped atop the Guess store, everything looked vaguely 1992 to me.

I was trapped in 1992.

But at least there were trolley tracks embedded in the promenade. The idea of LA people ridding in some form of mass transportation – even if it’s just make believe and does nothing to alleviate our choked freeways – did make me feel a little tingle of hope.

Sam Lubell of The Architect’s Paper writes about The Americana too.

Most of the architecture at the Americana is banal and unapologetically nostalgic, ranging from vaguely Italianate to art deco-light to faux colonial. Yet at least it is varied in style and size, a touch of city-ness from which many malls could benefit. The addition of real living spaces—although far from affordable ones—within the complex helps contribute to this sense of urbanity as well. And within the architectural array, there are a few gems that—while somewhat bizarre—draw the eye and keep the array from collapsing into a wasteland of boredom. A golden cupola adorns a large Guess Store. A 175-foot-tall rusted elevator tower is topped with a thin spire that looks like a cross between an oil tower and the Eiffel Tower. A few of the contemporary-style buildings, each with its own architectural expression, are pretty good: a gray limestone-and-steel-clad Barney’s; a blond wood-clad Martin and Osa; and a Lululemon Athletica whose fiberglass facade appears to be peeled away to reveal glazing.

After about an hour, the piped-in jazz, the strange security guards with their Mountie hats, and the supernatural syrupy sweetness of the place become seriously grating. It could be the set for The Prisoner. You start to doubt whether this concoction actually connects itself to the rest of Glendale, which peeks in at places but is mostly shut out. You start to wonder who would want to live over a place like this for years, not just linger for an hour. And you also start to wonder why there is no Farmer’s Market like at the Grove, just a collection of high-end stores for wealthy visitors.

Still, while the project may be a little creepy and architecturally unspectacular, for a mall it represents a stunningly good piece of urban design. Like the Grove, it’s one of the few malls I’ve been to where I’ve actually wanted to linger. These designers are getting so close to real urbanism that you wonder what they might think of next. Maybe a non-chain store that locals would want to use? Maybe an urban space that doesn’t prohibit pets and photography or have a curfew of 10 p.m.? Wait, I have an idea. Maybe these fake towns could someday even become… real towns! Well, a guy can dream, can’t he?

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