Store Stories: Exploring the History and Design of Retail AT INDUSTRY CITY

The 19th-century department store and its successor, the modern mall, have continually evolved to attract and keep consumer attention for decades. Join us as 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 will highlight how aspects from architecture and display to urban planning and community building have shaped our shopping experiences.

This talk is being held in celebration of NYCxDesign as part of a day of programming at Brooklyn’s Industry City. Interested in more? From 12:00–2:00 p.m., join us for On Display, a hands-on workshop for ages 5–12 exploring the basic principles and elements of design to create a retail window display for an imaginary client.


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).


This free program will take place at Industry City at the Five-Two-A event space in Building 5, 2nd floor. Seating is available on a first come first served basis, with a standing area as well. It will feature short presentations from each of our speakers followed by a conversation and an audience Q&A. This program will be recorded and made available on Cooper Hewitt’s YouTube channel following the program. For general questions, including submitting a question for our speakers, or if we can provide accessibility services or accommodations to support your participation in this program, please email us at or let us know when registering. Please make your accommodation request as far in advance as possible—preferably at least one week before the program date when possible.

Health & Safety Measures

Upon check-in, attendees will be asked to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test from the previous 48 hours. Masks are also encouraged. Please visit Cooper Hewitt’s Plan Your Visit page, for up to date information on health and safety guidelines.

Special Thanks

Industry City programming made possible by Jamestown.