The 19th-century department store and its successor, the modern mall, have continually evolved to attract and keep consumer attention for decades. Critic Alexandra Lange and Cooper Hewitt curator Emily Orr examine design’s leading role in the development and cultural impact of some of America’s most impressive shopping complexes. Sharing stories from their recent books on retail, Lange and Orr highlight how aspects from architecture and display to urban planning and community building have shaped our shopping experiences. This talk was held in celebration of NYCxDesign as part of a day of programming at Brooklyn’s Industry City.


Alexandra Lange is a design critic and author of the forthcoming Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall (Bloomsbury, June 2022) among other books. She has written extensively on postwar design for children and in the domestic sphere. She has been the architecture critic for Curbed, and her work has appeared in CityLab, Dezeen, New York Magazine, the New York Times, and the New Yorker.

Emily M. Orr is the Associate Curator and Acting Head, Product Design and Decorative Arts at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She holds a Ph.D. in the History of Design from the Royal College of Art/Victoria & Albert Museum. Her exhibitions at Cooper Hewitt include Underground Modernist: E. McKnight Kauffer (2021-22), Botanical Expressions (2019-22), and Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s (2017). Orr was formerly the Marcia Brady Tucker Fellow in the American Decorative Arts Department at the Yale University Art Gallery (2009-12). She has written articles on a range of design history topics and is the author of Designing the Department Store: Display and Retail at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Bloomsbury, 2019).

SPECIAL THANKS Industry City programming made possible by Jamestown.