Between May 1957 and early October 1967 fifteen regional shopping centres opened in Australia. Together, these added nearly 7 million square feet – or more than half a square foot per inhabitant – of commercial area into the nation. Eight shopping centres were constructed in New South Wales, two each in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia and one in the Australian Capital Territory. Strongly indebted to its American ancestor, the regional shopping centre concept assumed an uneasy role when it was first introduced into Australia. Promoted by developers such as Lend Lease Corporation and Westfield, or department stores, most notably the Myer Emporium, the Australian regional shopping centre was to perform three diverging functions at once. It not only had to encourage consumption, which was arguably its raison d’être, but was also expected to instil modernity in citizens and create community in Australia’s expanding suburbs. Referencing the discourse in the popular press, this paper examines the development of the first fifteen regional shopping centres in Australia.

The paper is subdivided into two parts. ‘From Building Community to Building Disney’, the first section, emphasizes the role that the shopping centre assumed as a new figure of collectivity in the Australian suburbs while ‘In-between Crafting Modern Citizens and Constructing Consumers’, the second section, draws out the shopping centre’s reformist underpinnings. Documenting the typology’s changes between 1957 and 1967, both sections highlight how the Australian regional shopping centre evolved from reformist figure of collectivity to profit-driven box of gold.

The full conference paper can be read here.

Janina Gosseye, Peter Vernon, “Shopping Towns Australia, 1957-1967: From Reformist Figure of Collectivity to Box of Gold”, in: AnnMarie Brennan & Philip Goad (eds.) Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, 33, Gold (Melbourne: University of Melbourne, 2016), 216-227.