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The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping / Harvard Design School Project on the City 2 Paperback – April, 2002

3.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Like a favorite shopping emporium, The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping is a browser's paradise. This second installment of the Project on the City aims to investigate "a general urban condition undergoing virulent change." A big brick of a book with hundreds of photos and a bundle of essays by prominent designers, architects, and urban scholars, it traces the evolution of the marketplace and the environments we create for the purpose of getting and spending. From the great covered arcades of the 19th century to the museum displays of grand department stores to air-conditioned suburban malls, the book examines the ecology and life cycles of retail space the world over. Dip into the book anywhere for insights into acquisitive behavior. Newspaper clippings cite retail trends; a bar chart compares retail square footage by country (the U.S. tops them all). Some of the essays are already marked in yellow highlighter so you can scan for the main points. A 2,000-year timeline tracks major developments with theme concepts: Disney Space, Three-Ring Circus, Brand Zones, Shopping Landscapes. The book makes a wonderful reference for urban planners, but it's equally accessible to those who just want to shop 'til they drop.


People should be coerced to go through this stuff, it's potent and vital. -- Creative Review, March 2002 (UK)

The book seems destined to become the year's hippest coffee-table accessory. -- The Washington Post, 3/9/02

This is a timely, fascinating and occasionally frightening survey of the world's favourite hobby. -- i-D Magazine, United Kingdom

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Product Details

  • Series: Taschen specials
  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Taschen; 1St Edition edition (April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3822860476
  • ISBN-13: 978-3822860472
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 2 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,078,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
For a volume that purports to be scholarly research from Harvard University, it incorporates preciously little hard facts or empirical data from the commercial retail industry, aside from the colorful graphics, it represents, at best, an amateurish take on a global economy in the form of bumper stickers rather than any form of serious analysis.
Mr. Koolhaas' customary "Firehose" approach to editing - massive amount of unedited images and unaccredited charts and information featuring slogans sufficiently amorphous as to allow readers to draw whatever conclusion they want. Harvard GSD (Graduate School of Design) students would tell you that the whole book is a somewhat cynical exercise for Mr. Koolhaas to use his academic assistants to produce "research" that attempted to justify intellectually what he was designing for the Prada stores in NY, LA, etc. (a "cash cow" for Koolhaas' architectural firm according to his chief assistant) But since Koolhaas is an established and bankable star, none of the participants are complaining. In the end, most of the essays managed to emphasize an approach to architecture that happened to coincide with projects by Mr. Koolhaas.
For example, while the essay "Depato" give a reasonably detail account of the development of Japanese department stores in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, but then it focused on design features such as the "Bunkamura" or cultural village, art galleries and roof gardens that some stores had added in order to attract customers to shore up declining business. (Koolhaas advocated adding lecture hall in Prada stores but was vetoed for taking up too much valuable retail space).
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Format: Paperback
I'll start with the bad first: this book is too long, the essays are of uneven quality, and the layout is poor (if you are trying to read it, that is, and not just look at it). That being said, I think the overall product is excellent. This authors do not seek to answer questions but, instead, to raise them. Why is retail facing a crisis? How will advances in IT affect retail? What is changing about how we buy, what we buy, and why we buy?
The authors' premise is that shopping is a living entity, one with survival on its mind. Retail, they claim, has evolved as other beings have evolved: Some advances are foreseen while others come through chance, but all advances are in response to external forces. In the case of retail, the dominant relationship is between the shop and the shopper. As the shopper changes, so must the shop evolve, write the authors.
That this work is not a completed whole, but rather a piece where some assembly is required by the reader, is important in making this book work. The authors do not and cannot answer all their questions. The idea of "ulterior motives" - which teases at the implications of increased use of IT in retail and urban planning - is, to me, the central issue. The authors note the shift from "how does spacial design affect people" to "how does information design affect people". They note the importance of this shift for the future of shopping and present a history of retail as the vocabulary for which readers can begin to discuss these questions.
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Format: Paperback
If you work in retail management or are just curious (like me) about why and where folk shop, invest in this 800-page visual extravaganza. The key to survival with "Shopping" is page 27, where the contents are, and I suggest you turn over the page corner so you can find it easily. The rest of the book is text mixed up with a kaleidoscope of color photos, charts, maps, text panels, black pages, and color photos with white copy, etc, etc. The pace never slows down! Actually, it is not as bad as that because each of the 45 chapters starts on a spread and the right-hand page is always bright yellow with black type.
Naturally, the text covers all the big subjects, like Victor Gruen versus Jon Jerde (these are the guys you can blame/praise for all those malls) and everything else to do with shopping past, present, and into the future. I found very intriquing a chapter called Replascape, about companies that make artificial trees and shrubs for your local mall--and to keep up the pretense, in some locations, they are watered regularly. A large part of the book focuses on the U.S., but the rest of the developed world is not ignored. Shop till you drop in Europe, Japan, South America, Asia....
I would have liked an index in a book this size, but I still think the publishers should be proud that they have produced such an amazing book at a very affordable price.
Will that be cash or charge?
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Format: Paperback
It arrived just when i was needing it. Malls, shopping, consumerism, no-spaces, junk-spaces, the artificial-scape...finnaly Venturi&Brown met Koolhaas..(as i already suggested) but, despite all these, i still find it hard to pay such a thrilling money just because they didn't take the work of selecting the material. It seems to me lately that information grows endlessly and nobody is paying care to the "old customed" thing of selecting, choosing what's really important. IF THE BOOK WERE HALF ITS SIZE IT WOULD BE WORTH. As it is not, i must blame the authors for their happy "cut and paste and get the money" editorial strategy. I'm sad to say that i had to read it all and swallow even the most unmature essays to get to this conclusion. I suggest a combined reading of it with "No Logo" to get to an ecstasyc state of annoyment and claustrophobia.
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