Date of Award

Spring 5-30-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture

First Advisor

Michael Blier

Second Advisor

Nick DePace


Along with the development of society and economy, waste landscape becomes an inevitable result of urban involvement where technological innovation plays a very important role. Computer science, as the most important technology in the 21st century, also affects the physical spaces by enlarging our social distance. People prefer to contact physically less with others unless necessary, causing shrinkage of our community spaces. Abandoned commercial space, which has lost its social function, is one of the typical effects derived from both economic evolution and community shrinking.

In fact, Josh Sanburn (2017) in TIME mentioned “by 2022, analysts estimate that 1 out of every 4 malls in the U.S. could be out of business1,” which leaves amounts of empty buildings and wasted landscapes in urban and suburban areas. According to an article in The New York Times, dead malls are malls that have their glorious history but at least 40% of retail space is not used anymore2. They reflect that people’s attitude toward shared space has changed and demonstrate the limitation of physical space serve only one function under the context that is always changing. So, it’s our responsibility as landscape architects to explore possible ways of fitting multiple functions in limited spaces in order to enable a sustainable social and ecological community.

Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, RI, as one of the oldest big box malls in New England, was the start of a long boom in building retail space of all kinds. But nowadays, this place reflects the changing of economy and switching of people’s shopping habits nationwide. In addition, even though the building is surrounded by abundant community types of neighborhood, they are kept isolated by highways and a under utilized river, Pawtuxet River. So the isolation due to physical and sociological aspects makes the mall area a “lonely island”.

In this thesis, I treat the dying mall as a catalyst vessel of cultural activities to reunite communities, and also reveal the river as a thread to connect the surrounding communities for revitalizing the whole area. In terms of that, I take the design of Rhode Island Mall as a model to discuss how we create a “social ecotone” for reshaping the under valued space to valuable area in both social and ecological way.



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