Architecture Program


First Advisor

Steven Hardy

Date of this Version

Spring 5-5-2017


Kreutzer, Matthew Richard "Retail Without Walls: The Built Impacts of a Post-Spatial Retail Reality" Master of Architecture Thesis, The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2017


A THESIS Presented to the Architecture Faculty of The College of Architecture at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Architecture, Major: Architecture, Under the Supervision of Professor Steven Hardy. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2017

Copyright (c) 2017 Matthew Richard Kreutzer


Retail Without Walls: the built impacts of a post-spatial retail reality seeks out a better understanding of the physical outcomes of a retail environment that is rapidly changing and adapting to the demands of an increasingly digital consumer. As studies have repeatedly shown, foot traffic in malls and other physical stores continues to decline, which can be attributed to the rise of online platforms of retail.

Much of the thought going into the future of retail has been directed at understanding how the present store may adapt to suit the needs of a changing consumer buying process. Companies driving these studies have a vested interest in maintaining the physical presence of retail stores. While this thesis utilizes statistics to understand the spatial reality of retail, it does not seek a sentimental approach to maintaining a currently oversaturated retail presence.

After years of increasingly aggressive physical retail construction, a pinnacle to the presence of physical stores has been reached. Understanding that the prodigious footprints that have taken over the landscape have a fated future, this thesis aims to understand how both the urban and rural fabric may respond to the changing nature of retail and the mutations that this brings upon each respective reality. The thesis situates itself as projective understanding of the potential trajectory of the built environment as it pertains retail.

Through four distinct nodes within different locales, a cross section of the city is established. This cross section looks at the city core, a midtown condition, suburbia, and a rural condition. Through these four portions of the city, the project is able to create a comprehensive analysis of various trajectories for the breadth of the built retail fabric. Each portion of this cross section has been specifically chosen as a descriptive example of the relative portion of a city, regardless of specific application.

The city core portion of the project situates itself in the Meatpacking district of New York City. This area has become a robust retail environment that is more catered to the sensibilities of the local consumers of New York. This area of the city does not have the tourist presence that is apparent on Fifth Avenue. The Meatpacking District does not have the draw that other locations do have.

The midtown lens focuses on the Kansas City Country Club Plaza. This location was one of the original regional shopping destinations. This shopping center was designed to accommodate the increasing use of automobiles as people moved out to the early suburbs that surround this part of the city. Where prior models of retail had less need for the automobile, this model incorporated the destination effect of shopping, while maintaining a pedestrian quality once reached by automobile.

The suburban portion of the thesis locates itself at the site of the Gateway Mall in Lincoln, Nebraska. This mall was the original mall location in Lincoln, and it was the main economic driver that led to a demise of the city center retail that had dominated the city in the years prior to the construction of the mall. This location was built on the outskirts of the city and suburban housing soon followed and flourished.

The rural section focuses on a new form of development that understands the potentials of a population cluster built on the premise of a Post-Spatial retail environment. This portion is a tabula rasa for the development of the retail realities of the future, a retail that responds to the needs of a consumer centric society rather than to the vernacular of the historic city, liberated from forms of consumerism, but tied inextricably to consumption. This tabula rasa provides the ability of the city to liberate itself from the concretely capitalistic city.

Retail Without Walls: the built impacts of a post-spatial retail reality does not prescribe a specific architecture that will be the future of retail. The thesis seeks a better understanding of the spatial consequences of a Post- Spatial retail environment. Through a matrix of depictions, a commentary on the capitalistic city is established so as to create a dialogue about what has long been a driver of the development of the built environment.

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