City Center to Regional Mall

City Center to Regional Mall

Architecture, the Automobile, and Retailing in Los Angeles, 1920-1950

By Richard W. Longstreth





Winner of the Lewis Mumford Prize for Best Book Published in American City & Regional Planning History 1995-1997. From the 1920s to the 1950s, Los Angeles did for the shopping center what New York and Chicago had done for the skyscraper. In a single generation, the American retail center shifted from the downtown core to the regional shopping center. This rise of the regional shopping center is one of the most significant changes to the American city in the twentieth century, and no other American city has done as much as Los Angeles to spur that change. Ten years in the making, City Center to Regional Mall is a sweeping yet detailed account of the development of the regional shopping center. Richard Longstreth takes an historical perspective, relating retail development to broader architectural, urban, and cultural issues. His story is far from linear; the topics he covers include the emergence of Hollywood as a downtown in miniature, experiments with the shopping center as an amenity of planned residential developments, the branch department store as a landmark of decentralization, the evolution of off-street parking facilities, and the obscure origins of the pedestrian mall as a spine for retail complexes. Longstreth takes seriously the task of looking at retail buildings—one of the most neglected yet common building types—and the economics of real estate in the American city. He shows that Los Angeles in the period covered was a harbinger of American metropolitan trends during the second half of this century. Over 250 illustrations, culled from a wide variety of sources, constitute one of the best collections of old LA photographs published anywhere.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262122009 528 pp. | 7.5 in x 11 in


$44.95 T ISBN: 9780262621250 528 pp. | 7.5 in x 11 in


  • In this original, wonderfully illustrated, and superbly researched book, Richard Longstreth connects the history of a city obsessed by dreams of unlimited growth and total automobility to the development of that ultimate 'machine for consumption,' the regional mall. His narrative unites urban and business history, utopian architecture and commercial hucksterism into an interpretation of American culture and the American city that speaks profoundly to how we live now.

    Robert Fishman

    Professor of History, Rutgers Univeristy

  • At last an intelligent, lucidly written study that goes beyond cute phrases to illuminate the complicated process by which the automobile changed the American city and its architecture. Richard Longstreth's research is impeccable, the illustrations alone are a treasure trove, and his book revises many of our common assumptions about that city which supposedly never works, Los Angeles.

    Richard Guy Wilson

    Commonwealth Professor and Chair, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia

  • In this extraordinary study of the architectural and spatial evolution of modern commerce, Richard Longstreth shows us yet another way that Los Angeles invented the new urban metropolis of post-World War II America. Like it or not, this is the story of all of our communities—and all of us. I am indebted to Longstreth for his pathbreaking research and analysis.

    Lizabeth Cohen

    Professor of History, New York University

  • This provocative book treats the juncture of two subjects once wrongly consigned to a low priority among urban and architectural historians: Los Angeles and commercial architecture. with scholarly thoroughness, critical detachment, and lucid analysis, Richard Longstreth illuminates and celebrates them both.

    Thomas S. Hines

    Professor of History and Architecture, UCLA

  • This is a book that we've been waiting for. Richard Longstreth has given the commercial fabric of the twentieth century city the attention it deserves. After reading this multidimensional study that felicitously combines urban history, business history, and architectural analysis, no one will look at a downtown department sotre, suburban retail strip, or regional mall without new interest and insight.

    Carl Abbott

    Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University

  • Longstreth's book serves as an exemplary model for those interested in research on urban development and the history of commercial or 'vernacular' building types. Perhaps even more important than its exacting empirical investigation, the book's thorough description of Los Angeles' urban growth and architectural development makes an important contribution to the growing literature on the 20th century decentralized city. Longstreth also outlines the process by which urban forms and building design responded to the automobile. The illustrations themselves are notable. This book is a major contribution to American architectural and urban history.

    Margaret Crawford

    Chair, History and Theory Programs, Southern California Institue of Architecture

  • This is a prodigious volume packed with original research. I have never read a book that taught me more about American architecture and the day-to-day process of city building. For anyone interested in the history of American cities in the 20th century and how economic, political, and social forces have interacted with more purely formal concerns to produce our built environment, this work will be fundamental.

    Robert Bruegmann

    Professor of Art History, University of Illinois

  • [A]n engaging look at the neglected history of retail architecture and its relationship to the automobile.

    Mary Marien

    Christian Science Monitor


  • Winner of the 1997 Lewis Mumford Prize given by Society for American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH).