Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Farewell to a Childhood Icon

Yesterday was the final day of business for the old Randhurst Mall in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, where I lived when I was in kindergarten. I mentioned its impending demise in this post from a few months back.

Even though I was only five years old when I lived in Mt. Prospect, and we were only there for a year, Randhurst made an impression on me. Maybe it was the mall's unique architecture; even if I'm not sure how much the intricate design could be appreciated by a kid that young, I was at least old enough to know that it "looked cool." Or maybe it's just that it's the first time I ever "went to the mall" when I could actually remember it. For whatever reason, the place has a permanent spot in my memory.

The center's Wikipedia article describes the design thusly:
Randhurst was designed by Victor Gruen, a pioneer of modern shopping mall design. Unlike most shopping malls of the time, which were built in a straight line between two anchoring department stores, Gruen's design was shaped like an equilateral triangle, with an anchoring department store at each angle. Additional stores lined the sides of the triangle on two levels: a conventional level and a level located half a floor below the first level (down a flight of stairs), facing the first level. A floor of offices occupied the level above this "subfloor" of stores. A ring of clerestory windows was mounted in a domed area over the center of the mall; mounted just inside these windows were numerous stained glass windows in various oval and round shapes, oriented in such a way as to cast beams of colored light into the mall itself. As the mall was built at the height of the Cold War, it included a fallout shelter big enough to hold every citizen of Mount Prospect.
Again, I send you to this photo to get an idea of the unique design. Architecturally speaking, the place was definitely one of a kind.

As I said in the earlier post, had I known of Randhurst's fate when I was in Mt. Prospect over spring break, I would have certainly adjusted my schedule in order to stop in and look around one last time. But today, it faces the wrecking ball, and one can only hope that its New Urbanist replacement (to open in 2010) will revitalize the area. In the meantime, I found a bunch of tributes in various places on the Web:I'll definitely be interested to see how the new place turns out when it opens in 2010. Unabashed New Urbanism fan that I am, I'm still sorry that the old place had to go, but I've also seen what these centers can do for a community, so hopefully this new chapter in Mt. Prospect's history will be a good one.

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