Not many people outside of building design and architecture may know the name Victor Gruen, but the Austrian-born architect is credited with revolutionizing the way America shopped. Considered the inventor of the modern shopping mall, Gruen is best known for his work in designing the 800,000 sq. ft. Southdale Center, the country’s first enclosed shopping mall. With 72 stores and two anchor department-store tenants, Southdale opened in Edina, Minn., in 1956 – and transformed the retail environment and American consumption patterns.

“Suburban shopping centers had always been in the open, with stores connected by outdoor passageways. Gruen had the idea of putting the whole complex under one roof, with air-conditioning for the summer and heat for the winter,” best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell wrote in 2004. “Victor Gruen designed a fully enclosed, introverted, multitiered, double-anchor-tenant shopping complex with a garden court under a skylight – and today virtually every regional shopping center in America is a fully enclosed, introverted, multitiered, double-anchor-tenant complex with a garden court under a skylight. Victor Gruen didn’t design a building; he designed an archetype.”

As Gladwell – as well as The Atlantic this summer – noted, air conditioning was an appealing early amenity of the enclosed mall. Today, if not shopping online from the comfort of their own home, consumers are generally inclined to meander in air-conditioned retail indoors when making purchases during warm months and in heated stores during cooler months. That is why large commercial spaces such as malls and major retail stores require thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality.

At R.L. Craig Company, we are able to meet the air conditioning, heating, and ventilation needs of indoor shopping malls and other large commercial spaces. Whether you are an engineer, architect, contractor, building owner or in charge of facility maintenance, our commercial HVAC products and services can help you achieve your air-management objectives.