Strip Appeal: Reinventing the Strip Mall


November 17, 2012–March 17, 2013



“Car-centered development is going to kill us. We need to work for walkable neighborhoods and beware of washed-up shopping malls, and decaying strip malls that sit empty.”—Marvin Malecha, Dean of N.C. Design College speaking at the 8th Annual Urban Design Forum, Feb 2011.


Strip Appeal: Reinventing the Strip Mall is an ideas design competition and traveling exhibit initiated by the City-Region Studies Centre (CRSC) at the University of Alberta intended to stimulate and showcase creative proposals for the adaptive reuse of suburban strip malls.

We Asked 

Long deplored for their inefficient use of space and lack of aesthetic appeal, strip malls are uncelebrated, unloved and overlooked.

We asked: how can the car-orientated, nondescript suburban strip mall be imaginatively reinvented?

We invited architects, creatives and the general public to propose innovative ideas for the aesthetic reinvention and adaptive reuse of strip malls in their local suburban neighbourhoods.

We Received

We received over 100 submissions from 11 different countries. Entrants responded to the competition brief using a range of media from architectural and graphic design, to photography and video.

The 20 shortlisted submissions show that with creative thinking and design experimentation there are numerous ways to transform the strip mall to promote walkability, sustainability and community as suburban experience.

For example, the winning submission — Free Zoning — radically reimagines a derelict strip mall in Buffalo, NY as a building quarry. Proclaiming the site free of zoning restrictions, Davidson and Rafailidis deconstruct and inventory all the building materials on the site and demonstrate how these can be re-used to construct community housing.

We Imagine

At the CRSC, we believe it’s time to rethink our relationship with the strip mall.

Simple and sturdy, what better adaptable typology than the small-scale strip? Any community can make the small box their own.

This touring exhibit offers creative reimaginings of the strip mall to inspire architects, developers and communities to adapt these ideas for their own neighborhoods.


The catalog for Strip Appeal is now on sale at Talking Leaves bookstore on Main Street.