Internal Appropriations: Multiculturalism and the American Shopping Mall

Gregory Marinic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In The Production of Space (1991), Henri Lefebvre acknowledges the impact of production, consumption, and multiplicity of authorship in the built environment. He asserts that cities, buildings, and interiors are hybrid productions mobilized not only by designers, but also through cultural traditions, social practices, and autonomous interventions. By reframing the design of the built environment with the inverse—the quotidian impact of people reshaping space—Lefebvre celebrates the commonplace and unschooled actions that cities, buildings, and interiors receive apart from the top–down hand of designers. He fixes his gaze on the lives of buildings and interiors well beyond the moment of their completion. Working in a manner similar to geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, and historic preservationists, how can interior designers, architects, and planners cultivate a design culture that embraces and advocates for diverse modes of spatial occupancy? How might interior design practices promote, rather than subvert, these influences to recast spatial obsolescence toward higher performance futures? How might interior design engage a more organic mode of practice? For immigrants, refugees, and underrepresented persons, establishing a rooted narrative often begins within building interiors. Such interventions are primarily introduced as spatial, temporal, and adaptive gestures that reveal enduring values, perceptions, practices, and methods of production. This paper posits that obsolete buildings of American suburbia offer clues to an alternative future. It examines how incrementally adapted shopping malls allow immigrant and underrepresented communities to seek socioeconomic freedom via cultural practices and mercantilism. These adapted commercial interior environments demonstrate how historically marginalized communities have found safe spaces to forge identities. Two sites—one in Houston and the other in Cleveland—speculate on the transcontinental extent of retail obsolescence and shopping mall adaptation. Case studies are used to demonstrate how commercial interiors often migrate toward futures that markedly contrast with their original design intentions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-67
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Interior Design
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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