At NorthPark Center, drama comes in planters.
The indoor mall muddles on, even with shoppers flocking to open-air lifestyle centers and made-from-scratch main streets. Many American malls have become ghostly atria waiting for wrecking balls, though most metropolitan areas still have a busy mall or two. This mid-century brainstorm seems destined to stay with us to bring the next generation of mall rats into the brooding cabanas of Abercrombie & Fitch, Old Navy’s blinding gaeity, and the shabby glamour of Forever 21. These malls all look the same. A Hot Mama store or Nike store needs a familiar enticement to bring people in, and every mall’s plantings need to be comfortable but not distracting.
The formula makes one exception notable: NorthPark Center opened north of downtown Dallas in 1965. It could have been a Ficus-and-kiosk creation inside. But it was developed by Raymond and Patsy Nasher, who were prominent Dallas area art collectors. . “They put art where normally there would be retail,” explains Judy Cunningham, a botanist and landscape designer and founder of MESA Design Group, “[and] the landscape is art.”