Many people are perplexed as to why Sam’s Park & Shop, the strip mall and surface parking lot right at the Metro in Cleveland Park, is a historical landmark. While it may look like an ordinary strip mall, the Park & Shop was one of the first examples of retail architecture designed around the automobile.
In the May 1932 Architectural Record, the author praised the Park & Shop in contrast to a traditional main street retail strip, which he derides as “Coney Island Architecture.” He might as well have been describing the Connecticut Avenue service lane, which is about to be redesigned.
It’s easy to look back on the beginnings of autocentric planning and think that the people who conceived it must have been deluded, but to them these choices seem eminently rational. Modernism and Le Corbusier often get blamed for the rise of the automobile during the 20th century, because its supporters posed it as the only way to solve urban issues like traffic and overcrowding.
But this magazine is unequivocal about the need to redesign retail for the automobile, and merely reports on the International Style as an interesting trend in Europe.