Posted August 27th, 2013 in Uncategorized by Rick Hill

Bardstown Courthouse SquareAs mentioned in an earlier post, I grew up in Bardstown, a small town about 38 miles southeast of Louisville, Kentucky.  After living away from Bardstown for most of my adult life, I decided last year to reorient myself and thought a brief return to my home town could be enriching.  I recently, celebrated my first year of reorientation which usually begins with an early morning 7 mile walk past Historic Federal Hill, once a tobacco plantation that inspired the song, “My Old Kentucky Home” by Stephen Foster, often considered to be America’s first great composer.  I travel a route that takes me past bourbon distilleries, through the traditional black community and into the town center, which is a national historic landmark district.  My midway point takes me down a vital main street where I stop and read the daily headlines posted on the front of paper vending boxes.  At the end of Main Street is a courthouse square and monument to John Fifth, an early steamboat inventor. Continue Reading »

Posted August 26th, 2013 in Uncategorized by Rick Hill

desigual-02In my last post, I suggested that many planners, architects, and builders of today appear to have lost sight of the true sources of inspiration: the fusion of a diversity of people, art, and technology. They fail to recognize that the built environment must be a product of the contemporary culture of its communities.


In the book Cities of Collective Memory, author Christine Boyer chronicles how early forms of art, entertainment and cultural celebrations influenced the architecture, design and creation of historic public space and civic places. Her writings explain how events, ceremonies and their associated pageantry were products of their cultural environments. She writes that today these special places have become containers of our collective civic memories, connecting us to our past, which, in part, forms our identity. She is rightfully critical of modern urban developments that combine elements from previous eras, haphazardly recombining them out of context, time, and environment to create places without meaning.


One could point to the architects and developers of residential developments labeled as “New Urbanism” with their simulated main streets and replicas of historic civic structures as culprits. This is not an attack on a historic town form that follows certain patterns of urban land division—town squares, homes on narrow lots, front porches facing pedestrian sidewalks, and rear-yard parking accessed by neighbor-friendly alleys. Far from it. Continue Reading »

Posted August 19th, 2013 in Uncategorized by Rick Hill

Dithyrambalina11In my last post, I discussed the historical symbiotic relationship between art, fashion, entertainment, and commerce. I shared with you how art, technology, and design have inspired some of our most creative and original community spaces, including the very early shopping malls designed by Victor Gruen.


Urban revitalization and rebirth occurs in short and dramatic creative flourishes stimulated by discoveries, technology breakthroughs, and innovations that generate an influx of capital and people from diverse backgrounds. The mixing of money, people, opportunity, and the lack of accommodating social institutions, inspires the human imagination to achieve great leaps in creativity, resulting in city transformations.

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Posted August 11th, 2013 in Uncategorized by Rick Hill

louisvuittonIn my last post, I shared with you my vision of the enclosed shopping mall of the future, depicting it as a consumer sanctuary that will subtly nourish our senses and enhance our experience of being human. I described fluid spaces formed with new technology and materials incorporating light, water, botanical gardens, music, and art.


For hundreds of years, the relationship between art, fashion, entertainment, and commerce has been one of symbiosis. The celebrated showman P.T. Barnum understood this relationship well. In the 1860s, Barnum suggested to his friend R. H. Macy that he put his cherished collection of mechanical toys in the windows of Macy’s flagship New York department store at Christmastime.


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Posted August 1st, 2013 in Uncategorized by Rick Hill

512f8b8db3fc4ba0ee000185_new-york-s-telescopic-culture-shed-_culture_shed_01_view_from_high_line_at_30th_st-528x413In my last post, I discussed the threat of internet shopping to the modern shopping mall, and I suggested the complete rethinking of shopping-center designs by owners and developers.


We must conceive of the built marketplace through a different way of thinking, one that challenges the very notion of a fixed brick-and-mortar place. We must envision something that is adaptable, varied, flexible, dynamic, and fluid—something that can accommodate a far more dynamic mix of shops. This cannot be achieved by building more space that requires a sledgehammer to change it.


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Posted July 13th, 2013 in Uncategorized by Rick Hill


There are more than 48,000 shopping centers in the United States, and each one of them is under challenge from internet shopping. As with moving water, it’s only natural that the distribution of goods will find the most efficient channel to the consumer, and there’s no doubt about it: internet shopping has found that channel. Amazon, with same-day delivery from vast warehouses, is just one example.


Yet, the boom in internet shopping has done far more than change distribution methods—it has shaped the very nature of consumers and their expectations. They are now less impulsive, more disciplined, and far more purposeful in their approach to shopping. Modern, enclosed malls are struggling to respond to this new type of consumer and to compete with the distribution methods of internet shopping. The Macy’s, Walmart, and Target-anchored shopping centers may become relics of the past unless they respond  to the changing expectations of consumers. To successfully compete with internet shopping, malls must provide exactly what consumers want, when they want it, where they want it and at the lowest possible price – and more.


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