Magazine article The New Yorker

A NEW MALL; JUST LOOKING Series: 4/6

Magazine article The New Yorker

A NEW MALL; JUST LOOKING Series: 4/6

Article excerpt

The new Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle long ago dropped AOL from its title, and a good thing, too. It is hard enough to put up a twin-towered building in New York now without its having to bear the name of a legendary disaster; given the resemblance of each of the towers--smooth, polished sliced monoliths--to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, there must surely have been moments when the developers wanted to turn the building on its side and bury it horizontally in the earth, dark and low, with sombre inscriptions of the names of all the employees who lost their nest eggs in the merger. Nonetheless, here it is, upright, happy, and sneering, as if to say, Hey, Chrysler and Woolworth's aren't exactly in great shape anymore, either, and look at them.

The part of the building open to the public is called, with simpering disingenuousness, the Shops at Columbus Circle, as though it were a high street, a rue des marches. The cynical wise-guy thing to say is that it is a mall, and to be alternately snooty (do we want a mall ?) and anti-snooty snooty (but who are we to look down our noses at malls?). So the visitor inclined to be dubious about the conventional wisdom arrives certain that it is not going to be a mall, or, at least, that he will not see it as one.

Well, it is a mall. One enters to a giant Williams-Sonoma, winged by a Tourneau and a Hugo Boss, and then travels upstairs to a giant Borders (where the Tony Bennett CDs are, sinfully, stocked under "Easy Listening"), complete with a coffee shop where the kids drinking lattes and thumbing magazines look desperate to get out of this godforsaken suburb and into New York. Upstairs, the Restaurant Collection promises big-name chefs in not quite open dining rooms, but the more familiar term is food court. Also mallish is the slowed-down pace, an aimless, pick-it-up-and-put-it-down restlessness in the shopping rhythm--more Cherry Hill than Manhattan.

Yet malls are not without a history here. Putting aside arguable cases like Grand Central Terminal and the down-at-the-heels Manhattan Mall, what the new Time Warner Center and its shops really recall is the first fine blush of the Citicorp Center, over on Lexington Avenue at Fifty-third Street. …

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