August 24, 2014


Shopping, in the 50´s.
You would never guess it, but the fact is that one of the malls downtown - Shopping, aptly named - is the oldest shopping mall in the world. It was designed by Ralph Erskine and opened in October 1955. The oldest mall in the USA, where you would expect the oldest mall to be, is the Southdale mall in Minneapolis, which opened in 1956. Imagine that.

It makes sense to have an indoor market street in a climate like ours, and Shopping has had many followers: Strand, Smedjan (the smithy), and there were a few other ones that have since been replaced with large stores instead. Sadly, many small shops have closed when the big chains like H&M, Lindex, Stadium, etc, have moved in. Also, we have a big shoppingcentre in the outskirts of town, Storheden (= the big heath or moor), with ample parkingspace and where you can buy pretty much anything you can think of to a much better price. Changing fashions have also made some stores disappear, like the longest lasting tenant in Shopping, Agda Pettersson, who had a miliner´s shop that even I remember (it closed in 1997). No one wears hats anymore, at least not like they used to. Agda Pettersson wasn´t in Shopping from the beginning, she took over after Betty Bjurström, a scandal beauty/former actress from Stockholm (confined to a wheelchair after having been shot by her jealous Italian husband!) who tried to sell silk ties for 80 kr (a LOT of money in those days) with the slogan "Dare to be Beautiful".

Maud Adams, very young Luleå-girl.
On the topic of beauty, Maud Adams, local Bond girl (still has a flat in town), did her very first fashion show in Shopping, and it was the place where she hung out with all her friends. This photo with her outside the mall was very important for her career as a model. In 2005, after a thorough renovation and restoration for Shopping´s 50th anniversary, she came home for the re-opening ceremony.

The stationer´s shop on the site before Shopping was built.
It was quite a happening when Shopping was opened the first time. Something like 20.000 people came to see it on the first day. To the kids it seemed like science-fiction, unlike any kind of house they had seen before. It had everything: shops, restaurants, cafés, a cinema, hairdressers, bank, postoffice, newspaper editors, travelagents, butcher´s, tobacco. There was really nothing you couldn´t get here. The Royal Music Corp began with "Pomp and Circumstance" by Elgar and finished with "Colonel Bogey" by Alford. Imagine the mood! Later on there were "cocktail rhythms" played by a band called the Swing Stars. People got lost, became dizzy, and some just didn´t want to ever leave. On that first day, more than 15.000 postcards (with a Shopping motif, naturally) were sent from the post office.

Erskine´s drawing of his Shopping vision.
The architect Erskine was born in England and came with his girlfriend to Sweden in 1939, with just bikes, a rucksack and a sleepingbag. They were pacifists and stayed in Sweden because of the war, started a family and remained. His first house was Lådan (the box) which he built for his young family. It is famous in Swedish architectural history, now held in trust by Arkitektur- och Designcentrum (museum of architecture and design). He designed a lot of famous buildings in Sweden, and one of his last projects was Greenwich Milennium Village. His first ideas for Shopping were much more extensive, with parking houses, flats, and a kind of indoor market square for temporary market stalls. He wanted to create an updated version of the old medieval square, a place where people would naturally gather for social reasons, instead of an entirely commercial shoppingmall.

There has been an exhibition about the history of Shopping all summer, and I bought an anniversary book from 2005 on sale. The pictures and most of the facts are from the book, except this last one I took of the entrance to Shopping this very afternoon (shopping for new shoes). A few more stories have been built, with flats, and there is a parking house in the adjacent block, so perhaps it is closer to what Erskine intended today. He really was before his time, it still feels new and daring.


  1. This looks very attractive! I'm glad there were able to rejuvenate it.

    1. Yes! It is architectural history, when you think of it.