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Ellen Brown

Design, University of Warwick

Thesis title:

From post-war to post-Covid: Shifts in the Design and Vision of the Shopping Centre Experience

As physical retail spaces verge on obsolescence, this project investigates how shopping centres built over the course of the 1970s were originally envisioned and how they have been (re)adapted over time alongside changing economic, political and cultural shifts. The evolution in design and use of spaces of consumption, such as arcades and department stores, has been the focus of scholarly attention through the 20th and 21st centuries across history, urban studies, geography and anthropology. This project combines art historical literature with in-depth visual analyses of architectural forms to shape an understanding of Britain’s shopping centres now, at a point of their ‘becoming and disappearing’, to paraphrase Walter Benjamin’s term used to explain the nineteenth-century arcade. Coupled with the rise of e-commerce and virtual shopping, shopping centres must adapt or face abandonment. By focusing on the (re)production of spaces of consumption over time, I aim to contribute critical perspectives around how ‘authenticity’ and ‘materiality’ impact urban planning and the design of the built shopping environment.

Research Area

  • Architecture History, Theory and Practice
  • Design

Other Research Interests

  • Architecture and photography
  • Material and visual culture