Was Sears’s bankruptcy predicted by its architecture?

Art Deco grande dames, sleek midcentury modernism, aspirational skyscrapers, and bland box stores are all in the beleaguered retailer’s repertoire

Exterior of the Sears Roebuck & Co. store in Jackson, Mississippi. 
Bettmann Archive, Getty Images

This month, Sears, the 125-year-old retailer, filed for bankruptcy and announced the imminent closure of over 140 stores across the country. Though the figure seems small, consider this: The retailer’s architectural empire once included 3,500 stores, but had dwindled to about 820 at the beginning of 2018. Only 500 are expected to survive the year.

Once a model of success that changed the way Americans shopped—and even how they built homes—the retailer’s rise and fall could have been predicted through its architectural choices.

Sears, a business that’s existed in three centuries, has seen its fair share of architectural styles and outlived many of them: Art Deco grande dames, World’s Fair showpieces, sleek midcentury modernism, aspirational skyscrapers, and bland box stores. As Sears ramped up its ambitions and set itself apart from other retailers, its architecture followed. And as the company slipped into mediocrity—which some trace to the late 1970s—so, too, did its architecture.

In 1934, Sears presented a warehouse as part of the “Century of Progress” World’s Fair,
 Getty Images

The Roaring ’20s and Sears’s retail expansion

Sears began as a watch and jewelry mail-order company in 1892. It soon expanded its offerings to include the everyday products and goods people typically bought from local general stores, which had limited inventory and erratic pricing. The variety of products Sears offered at constant prices—and a money-back guarantee if customers didn’t like their purchase—helped the company take off. It eventually became the country’s largest mail-order business.

In 1925, Sears decided to build brick-and-mortar retail emporiums to attract more customers. It recognized that there was a demographic shift afoot in the early 20th century; populations were moving from rural to urban areas and Sears followed them.

The person in charge of developing the expansion was Robert E. Wood. Wood believed thelocations would have to be different both from existing downtown department stores and also from smaller general merchandise establishments in order to be successful. Sears built its first store in a somewhat remote location in Chicago, which was accessible by public transit, but especially accessible by car. Wood’s strategy paid off. By 1929, Sears was the third-largest department store in the country, with over 300 locations.

Sears paid close attention to its corporate, industrial, and retail architecture and worked closely with the architect George C. Nimmons on establishing the aesthetics of its physical presence.

First came distribution centers and manufacturing plants with magnificent classical detailing. In “Sears, Roebuck, and the Remaking of the Department Store, 1924-1942,” architectural historian Richard Longstreth writes:

The new plants did not look as much like other industrial buildings as they once had, nor could the be confused with other commercial, institutional, or governmental types. They were proud beacons of modernity that stood alone in appearance as well as in location, ranking among the most conspicuous buildings in their respective metropolitan areas, rising above the modest residential neighborhoods of their core constituents—landmarks of a great mercantile enterprise and of a new kind of store.

This same ethos eventually extended to retail architecture. In Houston and Miami, and across the country, Nimmons designed monumental buildings for Sears. While Sears’s products focused on practical, utilitarian, everyday items, its architecture was distinctive.

In addition to building entirely new structures, Sears often renovated existing buildings when it expanded its retail operations into a new city. This helped the stores speak to the local culture. In the early days of Sears stores, local managers were able to select the merchandise that would best suit their customers in an effort to boost sales.

Sears, Roebuck and Company Store, 4730 W. Irving Park Rd., Chicago, IL. Historic Architecture and Landscape Image Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago. Image #60317.

The 1930s–1950s: Art Deco masterpieces, midcentury modernism, and the shopping mall

Despite the Great Depression, Sears continued to grow—albeit at a slower pace than the previous decade. It opened 16 new stores between 1932 and 1942 but they were larger and reflected changes in merchandising and selling. The company established a “Store Planning and Display” department in 1932, which focused on ways to make shoppers buy more.

Under the leadership of Leslie S. Janes, Sears organized layouts to promote circulation, designed more theatrical displays, and offered merchandise displays where customers could shop without needing help from associates. Above street level, Sears eliminated windows, which helped lower operating costs. It also offered ample off-street parking.

In 1934, Sears opened a space in Englewood, a neighborhood in Chicago’s south side, which featured many of these new retail design strategies. The outside was clad in Indiana limestone with black granite trim and featured Art Deco detailing. The inside had escalators between the floors, was fully air conditioned and artificially lit, and offered over 48,000 different products. At the time, the Chicago Sunday Tribune called it: “The first application of modern functional design to department store architecture.”

Recognizing that more and more people were driving, Sears began to install service stations at its department stores. It also oriented its stores away from the street and toward parking. Customers could get their cars washed, brakes inspected, and wheels aligned while they shopped. Throughout the 1930s, the Store Planning and Display department experimented with ways to make Sears stand out in the retail landscape.

Elevation, Sears, Roebuck and Co., Karl Schneider, 1942–45. Graphite and colored pencil on tracing vellum. The Getty Research Institute, 850129
 Courtesy Getty Research Institute
Prefabricated Standard Fronts, Karl Schneider, 1942–45. The Getty Research Institute, 850129
 Courtesy Getty Research Institute

The next strategy focused on ways to standardize its stores. Karl Schneider, an architect who worked with modernist gurus Walter Gropius and Peter Behrens, introduced a functionalist aesthetic to Sears. Schneider drafted ideas for prefabricated stores and many ideas for a standard model, as Marlyn Musicant writes in a Getty Research Institute story about his contributions to the company’s architectural language:

“The new facades and standard stores featured symmetrical arrangements of large plate glass windows and surface treatments that would have conveyed European modernism, illustrating the widespread adoption of modernism as a vernacular style for commercial architecture.”

A midcentury Sears department store.
 The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

However after WWII, its competitors were catching up and latching on to new trends that Sears wasn’t: the mall. “Sears’s prewar stores set major precedents for a spectrum of attributes that were fast becoming industry standards,” Longstreth writes.

During the 1950s, Sears followed its customers yet again as they moved to the suburbs and began focusing on opening stores in malls as an anchor within larger developments.

The 1960s and sky-high aspirations

Business remained strong in the 1960s, as Sears’s play to suburban shoppers paid off. By 1969, the company was the largest retailer in the world with around 350,000 employees. That same year, the company broke ground on a new headquarters in Chicago: The 110-story Sears tower designed by architect Bruce Graham. When completed in 1973, it was the tallest building in the world.

While commissioning such a dramatic building was a profound statement in the health—and future health—of the company, a few economic shifts were coming into focus that would prove detrimental. Sears was losing marketshare—fast.

The Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1973
 Hedrich-Blessing Collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

The 1970s and an appeal to genericism

In the early 1970s, Sears circulated 315 million catalogs annually, making it the country’s largest publisher. Amid a recession, shopping habits changed during this decade as discount retailers like Walmart and Kmart and big-box specialty retailers—like Home Depot—gained market share. Sears’s business performance suffered. Shoppers were either spending money at discount retailers or higher-end department stores and the middle market, where Sears comfortably sat, began to feel pressure.

In 1978, Sears began refocusing its operations, cut advertising and marketing positions, and pared back suppliers. Its five-year plan read: “We are not a fashion store. We are not a store for the whimsical, nor the affluent. We are not a discounter, nor an avant-garde department store. We are not, by the standards of the trade press or any other group of bored observers, an exciting store.”

But that strategy wouldn’t pay off.

A Sears in Illinois, photographed in 1983.
 Lee Balterman/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

The 1980s and attempts at relevancy

In the 1980s, Sears diversified its business to include real estate and financial services (it already had a robust store credit business). But it didn’t completely abandon retail. An attempt to revive its image by opening the 226,000-square-foot “store of the future” at the King of Prussia Mall was met with lackluster impressions.

A 1983 Washington Post reviewer described Sears’s changes as “not unique for the retailing industry” and that the retail design looked “little different from what shoppers already see in other stores.” The New York Times pointed out that Sears’s upscaling happened well after its competitors.

Sears’s attempts to stay on top of retail weren’t enough. By 1991, Walmart eclipsed it as the country’s largest retailer. In 1992, Sears posted a $4 billion loss.

Sears architecture today

The 1990s were tough for Sears and some former executives point to this decade as being the nail in the coffin for the retailer. It sold the Sears Tower in 1994 and struggled with profitability in the years that followed. Much of its focus wasn’t in physical space. The company closed its catalog operations and tried to refocus to e-commerce, but with little success.

Crosstown Concourse, in Memphis, is a mixed-use development in a former Sears warehouse.
 Selavie Photography

Instead of being known for pioneering architecture, Sears was becoming known for abandoned buildings. The decline continued through the 2000s. Between 2010 and 2017, Sears went from 3,500 stores to just 695.

In 2015, Sears sold hundreds of its properties to a real estate investment trust, which is doing quite well financially as Sears retail flounders. Today, real estate—versus a retail business—is Sears’s most valuable asset.

Now, former Sears buildings are fast becoming redevelopment opportunities. Crosstown Concourse, in Memphis, is now a mixed-use development, designed by Looney Ricks Kiss in association with Dialog, in a former Sears warehouse. A former department store in Santa Monica is being recast as a mixed-use project for the area’s growing tech economy.

Today, the vestiges remain of Sears even if the retailer seems faced for a sunset. While Sears the shopping destination might shutter, its architecture endures.

Silent monk Baba Hari Dass, who inspired thousands at the Mount Madonna Center, dies at 95

Baba Hari Dass, known affectionately by the honorific Babaji by many in the Mount Madonna community, brought a lightness to what he did, and a tenderness to those he met. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

NICHOLAS IBARRA | Santa Cruz Sentinel

September 26, 2018

SANTA CRUZ – Baba Hari Dass, the spiritual leader and silent monk who inspired thousands out of the Mount Madonna Center north of Watsonville, died Tuesday morning in his Bonny Doon home. He was 95.

Known by his students and devotees as Babaji — Hindi for “respected father,” he taught yoga and meditation out of the Watsonville retreat center and school after moving to the U.S. from India in 1971.

Babaji took a vow of silence in 1952, conversing only through his writings and a small chalkboard from which he would dispense terse-yet-profound utterances to those who sought his advice.

Asked once by a Sentinel reporter to describe himself, he wrote simply, “I am what people see me as.” Asked how should one live a good life, he would reportedly respond, “Work honestly, meditate every day, meet people without fear, and play.”

Born March 26, 1923, in Almora, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas, Babaji was said to have left his home at age 8 to pursue what his calling to become a monk, joining a nearby spiritual school.

He is said to have spent his youth practicing yoga and meditation and helping to build temples in the Himalayan foothills, soon becoming a venerated yogi and ascetic in his own right and building a following in India.

He emigrated to the U.S. in 1972 at the invitation of two American students, and took up residence with UC Davis professor Ruth Horsting. His reputation in the U.S. spread on the wings of a 1971 book “Be Here Now” by former Harvard psychologist Richard “Ram Dass” Alpert, who had studied yoga with Babaji in India. A group of devotees formed at UC Santa Cruz and Babaji soon moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains with Horsting.

His followers formed the nonprofit Hanuman Fellowship in 1972 and began hosting retreats. In 1978 the nonprofit purchased 350 acres of rural land north of Watsonville and founded the Mount Madonna Center. The center now sees thousands of visitors each year and is the site of the Mount Madonna School, a private K-12 school with about 200 students.

“Babaji put things in motion around him,” said Ward Mailliard, who led the Hanuman Fellowship for decades and now serves on its board. “He had a way of seeing people’s talents and gifts and helping put them in service to the greater good. That’s how Mount Madonna came about.”


Translators: Alex Gambeau, Sara Walker, Bo Lebo, Domenica Shelar, Heather Williams

SENSE TESTIMONY: Persons identify themselves as separate, physical forms

5th Step Conclusions:

1) Truth is Whole complete in all individuals; it is the Universal Being, I AM I, the formless thinking Force
2) The ONE I AM is here now Formless, Infinite, ever present MIND.
3) The Truth of people is knowing Being Infinite ongoing Oneness.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Standard image of masonic square and compasses

The Masonic Square and Compasses.
(Found with or without the letter G)

Freemasonry or Masonry consists of fraternal organisations that trace their origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons, which from the end of the fourteenth century regulated the qualifications of stonemasons and their interaction with authorities and clients. The degrees of freemasonry retain the three grades of medieval craft guilds, those of ApprenticeJourneyman or fellow (now called Fellowcraft), and Master Mason. The candidate of these three degrees is progressively taught the meanings of the symbols of Freemasonry, and entrusted with grips, signs and words to signify to other members that he has been so initiated. The initiations are part allegorical morality play and part lecture. The three degrees are offered by Craft (or Blue Lodge) Freemasonry. Members of these organisations are known as Freemasons or Masons. There are additional degrees, which vary with locality and jurisdiction, and are usually administered by their own bodies (separate from those who administer the craft degrees).

The basic, local organisational unit of Freemasonry is the Lodge. The Lodges are usually supervised and governed at the regional level (usually coterminous with either a state, province, or national border) by a Grand Lodge or Grand Orient. There is no international, worldwide Grand Lodge that supervises all of Freemasonry; each Grand Lodge is independent, and they do not necessarily recognise each other as being legitimate.

Modern Freemasonry broadly consists of two main recognition groups. Regular Freemasonry insists that a volume of scripture is open in a working lodge, that every member profess belief in a Supreme Being, that no women are admitted (although, in some jurisdictions, those who transition to women after being initiated may stay; see below), and that the discussion of religion and politics is banned. Continental Freemasonry is now the general term for the jurisdictions which have removed some, or all, of these restrictions.

More at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freemasonry

“The Secret Doctrine” by Madame Blavatsky

The Secret Doctrine

The Secret Doctrine

(The Secret Doctrine #1-2)

by  Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

A sourcebook of the esoteric tradition, outlining the fundamental tenets of the Secret Doctrine of the Archaic Ages. This title addresses the perennial questions: continuity of life after death, purpose of existence, good and evil, consciousness and substance, sexuality, karma, evolution, and human and planetary transformation.

(Goodreads.com; submitted by Richard Branam.)

Names of God in Islam

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 99 Names of Allah (Arabicأسماء الله الحسنى‎‎, translit: ʾasmāʾu llāhi lḥusnā) also known as the 99 attributes of Allah, according to Islamic tradition, are the names of Allah revealed by the Creator (الله) (Allah) in the Qur’an.

The 99 Names of Allah are very important to Muslims and are taken from verses of the Qur’an. They are:

No. Name of Allah Name of Allah in Arabic Meaning
1 Ar Rahman الرحمن The Most Gracious
2 Ar Raheem الرحيم The Most Merciful
3 Al Malik الملك The King
4 Al Quddus القدوس The Most Holy
5 As Salam السلام The Ultimate Provider of Peace
6 Al Mu’min المؤمن The Guardian of Faith
7 Al Muhaymin المهيمن The Guardian, the Preserver
8 Al Aziz العزيز The Almighty, the Self Sufficient
9 Al Jabbaar الجبار The Compeller
10 Al Mutakabbir الْمُتَكَبِّرُ The Dominant one
11 Al Khaaliq الخالق The Creator
12 Al Baari البارئ The Maker
13 Al Musawwir المصور The Fashioner of Forms
14 Al Ghaffaar الغفار The Ever-Forgiving
15 Al Qahhaar القهار The All Subduer
16 Al Wahhaab الوهاب The Bestower
17 Ar Razzaaq الرزاق The Ever-Providing, The Sustainer
18 Al Fattaah الفتاح The Ultimate Judge, The Opener of All Portals, the Victory Giver
19 Al Alim العليم The All-Knowing, the Omniscient
20 Al Qaabidh القابض The Restrainer, the Straightener
21 Al Baasit الباسط The Expander, the Munificent
22 Al Khaafidh الخافض The Abaser, The Demeanor
23 Ar Raafi’ الرافع The Exalter
24 Al Mu’izz المعز The Giver of Honour
25 Al Muzil المذل The Giver of Dishonor
26 As Sami’ السميع The All-Hearing
27 Al Basir البصير The All-Seeing
28 Al Hakam الحكم The Judge, the Ultimate Arbiter
29 Al ‘Adl العدل The Utterly Just
30 Al Latif اللطيف The Kind
31 Al Khabir الخبير The All-Aware
32 Al Halim الحليم The Forbearer, The Indulgent
33 Al-‘Adheem العظيم The Magnificent, the Infinite
34 Al Ghafur الغفور The All-Forgiving
35 Ash Shakur الشكور The Grateful
36 Al Ali العلي The Sublimely Exalted
37 Al Kabir الكبير The Great
38 Al Hafidh الحفيظ The Preserver, The Protector
39 Al Muqit المقيت The Nourisher
40 Al Hasib الحسيب The Reckoner
41 Al Jalil الجليل The Majestic
42 Al Karim الكريم The Bountiful, the Generous
43 Ar Raqib الرقيب The Watchful
44 Al Mujib المجيب The Responsive, the Answerer
45 Al Wasi’ الواسع The Vast, the All Encompassing
46 Al Hakim الحكيم The Wise
47 Al Wadud الودود The Loving, the Kind One
48 Al Majid المجيد The All Glorious
49 Al Ba’ith الباعث The Raiser of the Dead
50 Ash Shaheed الشهيد The Witness
51 Al Haqq الحق The Truth, the Real
52 Al Wakil الوكيل The Trustee, the Dependable
53 Al Qawiyy القوي The Strong
54 Al Mateen المتين The Firm, the Steadfast
55 Al Wali الولي The Protecting Friend, Patron, and Supporter
56 Al Hamidu الحميد The All Praise Worthy
57 Al Muhsi المحصي The Accounter, The Numberer of All
58 Al Mubdi المبدئ The Producer, Originator, and Initiator of all
59 Al Mu’id المعيد The Reinstater Who Brings Back All
60 Al Muhyi المحيي The Giver of Life
61 Al Mumit المميت The Bringer of Death, the Destroyer
62 Al Hayy الحي The Ever Living
63 Al Qayyum القيوم The Self Subsisting Sustainer of All
64 Al Waajid الواجد The Perceiver, the Finder, the Unfailing
65 Al Maajid الماجد The Illustrious, the Magnificent
66 Al Waahid الواحد The One, the All Inclusive, the Indivisible
67 Al Ahad الاحد The One, the Indivisible
68 As Samad الصمد The Everlasting,The Eternal Refuge
69 Al Qaadir القادر The All-Capable, The Most Able, The Most Powerful
70 Al Muqtadir المقتدر The All Determiner, the Dominant
71 Al Muqaddim المقدم The Expediter, He who brings forward
72 Al Mu’akhkhir المؤخر The Delayer, He who brings backwards
73 Al Awwal الأول The First
74 Al Aakhir الآخر The Last
75 Az Dhaahir الظاهر The Manifest; the All Victorious
76 Al Baatin الباطن The Hidden; the All Encompassing
77 Al Waali الوالي The Patron
78 Al Muta’ali المتعالي The Self Exalted
79 Al Barr البر The Most Kind and Righteous
80 At Tawwaab التواب The Ever-Pardoning, Ever Relenting
81 Al Muntaqim المنتقم The Avenger
82 Al ‘Afuww العفو The Pardoner, The Forgiver
83 Ar Ra’uf الرؤوف The Clement, The Compassionate, The All-Pitying
84 Malik Al Mulk مالك الملك The Owner of All Sovereignty
85 Dhual Jalal wa Al Ikram ذو الجلال و الإكرام The Lord of Majesty and Generosity
86 Al Muqsit المقسط The Equitable, the Requiter
87 Al Jaami’ الجامع The Gatherer, the Unifier
88 Al Ghani الغني The All Rich, the Independent
89 Al Mughni المغني The Enricher, the Emancipator
90 Al Mani’ المانع The Withholder, the Shielder, the Defender
91 Ad Dharr الضآر The Distresser
92 An Nafi’ النافع The Propitious, the Benefactor
93 An Nur النور The Light
94 Al Hadi الهادي The Guide
95 Al Badi’i البديع Incomparable, the Originator
96 Al Baaqi الباقي The Ever Enduring and Immutable
97 Al Waarith الوارث The Heir, the Inheritor of All
98 Ar Rashid الرشيد The Guide, Infallible Teacher, and Knower
99 Al Saboor الصبور The Forbearing, The Patient

“Wisdom from Suffering” by Marianne Williamson

Your role as a teacher is often to help people through their pain. Our instinctive response is to take someone’s pain away, but it’s important to remember that only God can do that. Our role is to give people permission to feel their feelings, then help them surrender those feelings to God.

A lot of lessons come with emotional pain, for often the pain is due to things that are difficult to look at. The pain isn’t just that our lover left, but that we behaved in ways that made it more probable they would. The pain isn’t just that we lost our job, but that we behaved in ways that made it more probable we would. It’s only when we can look at our pain with brutal honesty and self-awareness that we can make the changes to ensure better results next time.

Your job as a spiritual teacher, then, is to bear witness to someone’s suffering but always with an eye to the growth that can come from it. And part of that growth is the realization that this too shall pass. “Okay, you’re down today, but this is not the end.” As they say, it’s not over ‘till the happy part. And if the happy part isn’t here yet, then it’s not over. The end of the journey—the Promised Land, the resurrection, the enlightenment—is the evolution of our consciousness, the point from which we can recognize that all is truly well. Your own faith in the morning that follows every night of darkness is the greatest gift you can give your student.

The art form of teaching is the capacity to be fully present for your student’s pain, yet not enrolled in the illusion that is permanent. Try always to bear witness to their agony, but stay absolutely convinced that joy awaits them beyond this moment.

Marianne Williamson

“A Mentor’s thoughts on Leadership” by Calvin Harris, H.W., M.

One more of my Mentor/Elders has crossed over to another dimensional existence. As I sat with my thoughts and memories of Billye Talmage the words of an unknown writer came to mind

“Be the things you loved most about the people who are gone.”

Ready or not the baton of leadership, I thought, has passed to us.  Understanding that in the looks of the eyes of new or younger students and clients ( No matter our label: High Watch, Mentors, Teachers, Counselors, or Coaches) we represent to them the new role model and leadership in the Prosperos School.

If we have learned from our elders, what is important, it is to help folks find the leadership within themselves, which is transformational both within and without the Soma. To provide tools for a preparedness for all the changes taking place in Consciousness and therefore society and world.

A quote by Dr. Pippa Malmgren  from her book:

The Leadership Lab, says.

“It’s not change that people resist, it’s change they can’t control or be included in.”

My thoughts drift back on to the lessons taught by my Mentors, to encourage and sometimes ‘push’ participation in Life. “If you Translate, then act in a way that shows you Translated.” (W. Perry Dickey, H. W., M).

If you see that something needs doing or appears not to be right. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. You see it, then give yourself permission to become the leader in its change – find the facts, do the research, prepare the groundwork and then ‘Act’  taking the lead to change.

A new generation of students and learners are at the doors of Self-realization and Beingness, let us point them to the handle of the door so they can open it.

14-Hour Labor Not Exactly Cakewalk For Baby Sticking Halfway Out Mother’s Vagina Either

October 25, 2018 (theonion.com)

TULSA, OK—Describing the experience as “no fucking picnic,” an as-yet-unnamed newborn protruding halfway out of his mother’s vagina confirmed Thursday that the 14-hour labor experience had not exactly been a cakewalk for him, either. “Just so we’re clear, this sucks for me, too. I would love to get someone to wipe the mucus out of my eyes. Or maybe some ice chips?” said the 7-pound, 4-ounce infant, who felt his cries for assistance had gone completely unnoticed by the nearby team of doctors working to improve conditions for his mother while he was jammed inside a hot, cramped birth canal all goddamn day. “If anything, this whole labor thing is way worse for me, because at least she gets to be pumped full of drugs and she isn’t dangling face-first out of her mother’s cervix. Let’s just say, I can think of better ways to spend my day that don’t include having the shape of my head changed by someone’s reproductive tract. Unbelievable.” At press time, the baby had rolled its newly opened eyes in disbelief for the first time ever upon overhearing his father tell his basically unconscious mother that she was doing “an amazing job.”

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