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South Bridge Mall

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1983–1985, The Architectural Alliance. S. Federal Ave. at 1st St.

The 1950s and 1960s witnessed the creation of a number of downtown malls across the country. With only a handful of exceptions, these malls were an economic and visual disaster. In the late seventies and eighties a new approach came to the fore: to inject a suburban mall anchored by a department store into an existing downtown grid system. This is what we have in the South Bridge Mall. A block of Federal Avenue (with Frank Lloyd Wright's bank on the corner) has been closed and made into a pedestrian mall. The enclosed shopping center has been built to the south, and behind this is the parking area. From the south the complex appears highly nonurban—it looks like a good, characteristic suburban mall. But the closing of one block of Federal Avenue and its termination with the gable-roofed shopping center is visually not very successful. The street has been divided so that a runway (for fire trucks and delivery) goes down one side; on the other are uncomfortable benches (visually and actually) and a parsimonious planting of trees. Two rows of sharp, rectangular streetlights do not help to tie it all together. To the south the parking lot is one vast surface plane, devoid of any internal planting. On the other hand, the shopping-center building with a glassed gable end and a central glass tower—which projects a rural image in its reference to the architecture of barns—is quite successful.

Writing Credits

David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim


What's Nearby


David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim, "South Bridge Mall", [Mason City, Iowa], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Iowa, David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 413-414.

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