Do you enjoy visiting the mall? Earlier this week, I was scheduled to attend an event in Boston. Although I tried to plan my commute downtown carefully, I ended up arriving several minutes early. Because it was a brisk February morning, I decided to pass my free time wandering around the Prudential Center mall in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.
As weird as it sounds, ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by indoor shopping malls. I have a distinct memory from when I was kid, when my mom and my aunt took my cousin and I to the mall late one evening because they had an errand to run and we weren’t ready to go to bed. I remember my cousin and I excitedly changing out of our pajamas and into proper clothing and absconding like bandits into the darkness in a minivan headed downtown. That night the mall felt like a magical escape from the suburban humdrum.
I think my love for (nice) malls is explained in part by my love for architecture. When I was younger, I would marvel at how malls were a menagerie of eclectic architectural styles. My young mind was intrigued by a neighborhood of tiny buildings, which I now know are architectural facades rather than true structures. When I was in high school, I was serious about pursuing a career in architecture. I considered applying to 5-year bachelor programs, which put students on a fast track to attain licensing, as well as 4-year bachelor plus 2-year master programs. I ultimately matriculated into undergrad undecided, however, during the application process, I wrote an essay on my love for architecture by explaining my love for the buildings on the Las Vegas strip inside and out, including the malls. Here is an excerpt, courtesy of 17-year old me:
“Lights everywhere, buildings of all shapes and sizes. I am standing on a bridge as the city stretches out before me. To my right stands the durable marble columns of Rome that were able to hold up one of the greatest ancient empires. Above me there is a tower composed of intertwining thin rods lit up with the excitement of the night. Lastly, in the distance lies the majestic figure of a pharaoh’s head on a cat’s body perched in front of a sleek black pyramid. From where I am standing, I can see Caesar’s Palace, the Eiffel Tower and a sphinx. Why are all of these monuments in the same place? They are all here because I am in Las Vegas. Now that I look back on the experience, I realize that while I was there, I was obsessed with the way that everything looked. I can remember thinking “Wow, a glass dome,” or “Cool! A building shaped liked a pyramid!” Even though the thoughts were simple statements at the time, they mean much more to me now. My favorite hotel in Las Vegas is Caesar’s Palace. Inside and out it looks like it was created by the Romans. The ceilings are painted like the sky, and even though it is inside, the spaciousness of the hotel makes you feel like you are actually in Rome. There are columns and arches everywhere, which I love because not only do they support the hotel, but they also contribute to its charm. Even though I love the attractions in Las Vegas, one thing I didn’t even realize I loved was the architecture….”
A bit over the top? Well, I was an eager high-school senior. Rereading this passage, I am reminded of how excited I was to just look, no shopping, just taking in the expensive, larger-than-life eye candy. My trip to Vegas was with my family. With a gaggle of kids, seeing the sites inside and out was a top activity (in combination with splashing in the hotel pool). In fact, I remember clearly taking a bus tour to see the strip and devoting more than one evening to walking through the hotels and malls in the evening.
I thought about my trip to Vegas when I was passing time walking through Boston’s Prudential Center. In fact, my experience ogling the palatial malls on the strip, made me physically stop, put my phone in my pocket, back up, and soak in the beautiful design of the building around me. While the Prudential Center is not the biggest nor best mall by any standard, it is certainly nice, clean, and fun to look at.
The Prudential Center is set a few floors up from street level. The halls have an airy feel as visitors have a clear view overlooking the city streets. The long passages are somewhat narrow, but the ceilings are high and open with panels of windows. One section of the mall, the Winter Garden, is planted with trees and flowers and overlooks a courtyard. While it’s no Caesar’s Palace, the Prudential Center was a nice distraction for me. The more we engage with our surroundings, the more we are bound to appreciate them. Whether in nature or in the city, I wish beautiful things will catch your eyes today, Dear Reader.