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Urban Form

The Mall Master Retires


Mall master Jim Ryan gets too little regard from peers

jim-mallI once read of an architecture critic who told his editors that he refused to write about shopping malls. Architecture was high art, he said, and malls were just, well, so commercial.

Jim Ryan does do shopping malls. The architect of the Somerset Collection in Troy and many other upscale malls around the nation, Ryan, now 73, just retired from active practice at his firm JPRA Architects of Novi.

Given his retirement, it seems like a good time not only to acknowledge Ryan’s work as a designer but to question the accepted hierarchy in architecture.

In that hierarchy of important buildings, art museums and concert halls rank highest at the moment (just look at the covers of any architecture magazine). Those are followed in the pecking order by skyscrapers (especially those in China), major university buildings and quirky homes for the rich.

Malls and other retail architecture get snubbed as little more than empty boxes with slick surfaces. Read More


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