AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Endless summer at the world's biggest shopping wonderland It is the largest shopping mall in the world, canonized as such by the 1986 Guinness Book of World Records. West Edmonton Mall also contains the world's largest indoor amusement park and the largest indoor waterpark. It has the planet's biggest parking lot. According to Nader Ghermezian, one of the four brothers who devised and built it, it is "the most complete tourist attraction in the Universe." And to celebrate all this, the mall launched a record number of balloons in 1985--half a million, carefully counted by a certified accountant as they floated up from its roof to blot out the sun in the sky over Edmonton, Alberta--the northernmost of Canada's major cities.
To begin to put its size in perspective, consider thatthe previous record holder as the largest mall was the Del Amo complex in Southern California. West Edmonton is twice its size. Fashioned from two existing malls, Del Amo has 360 stores. West Edmonton added 400 stores just in its recently completed Phase III, for a total exceeding 800. That's 11 major department stores, more than 110 eating places, 200 stores that sell women's clothing (35 for men) and 50 shoe stores. The mall also has several theme shopping areas, the Ice Palace skating rink, a Spanish galleon in its own lake, four submarines, and 37 animal displays and a petting zoo--birds, Siberian tiger cubs, miniature Arabian horses, reindeer, baby bears, baby moose and one baby elephant.
If you are a veteran of voyages down a particularrabbit hole or through a certain looking glass, you probably would find a visit to West Edmonton Mall a familiar way to spend the day . Aerobic dancers leap near the sculpture of Alberta oilmen. Children climb into the mouth of an iron whale to sit under a panel of pink neon. You cruise in a submarine that runs on tracks beneath the mall's lagoon, past tanks of sharks, dolphins and moray eels; you emerge to see a girl in her first communion dress waiting to get on. You are almost knocked down by a running banjo player in a candy-striped jacket, late for his gig in the Bourbon Street section. Somebody seems to be following you, but it's only a mall maintenance man with a push broom, obsessively sweeping up dust even as it falls.
There is reflective glass everywhere. It's a mall ofmirrors, and the images of the mall's random citizenship of the day--old and young, dressed in Armani jackets or Levi's jeans, business suits or swimsuits--are doubled and trebled; parades of them march into each other and disappear, only to emerge from some regfracted eternity holding a plastic bag from Fragments of a Dream.
But West Edmonton may not remain the biggestmall in the world for long. The Ghermezians (and their Triple Five Corporation) have vowed to top themselves, perhaps in the first post-Edmonton project they've agreed to begin in the United States--a shopping mall and amusement complex just outside Minneapolis-St. Paul, which is planned to encompass office, hotel, entertainment and educational facilities.
Ironically, this project will rise just a few highwaymiles from the Southdale Shopping Center--the one that started it all, exactly 30 years ago. There are several thousand multilevel enclosed malls in North America and others scattered on every continent on Earth, except (for the moment) Antarctica. But before Southdale, there were none.
Yet for all its size and strangeness, the West EdmontonMall is less an exception than a summing up of what the shopping mall is all about, and what it has become since …