I am a big believer in this place. Folks will try to point out that it may seem too self-consciously-artsy for them, or they may mock it as pretentious, (as folks do whenever true innovation takes place). But the Anti-Mall is wonderful. To understand why this place is a miracle, you need to have grown up in Orange County where, in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, not a single thing was ever done architecturally that was not almost deliberately boring and soulless. And today, most strip malls just have zero architecture and environment. A few of the large malls are amazing in terms of environment, but those are few and far between. The Lab, provides an environment that has all the creativity of The Spectrum or Fashion Island, but within a small space. They really pack in the artwork, the installation works, the conceptual spaces. It's modern art, traditional art, (like the amazing knitted stockings for the trees, and all the stuff of wood and tile), and yet the hyper-modern is there too, like the tree of all metal branches that is so convincing I saw a bird hopping around it as though he thought it was a real tree. And then there's the airstream business, record stores and things out of 1960s trailers. And for total foodie snobs, this is heaven. The cafés are there for your low-spending hanging out with a cookie and a coffee; but too, you can get some real fine sit-down eats of various sorts. The testament is in the fact that the tables are full and the parking lot is full. And this: The type of proprietor who chooses to rent at the Lab, is, himself or herself, often a friendly person and an enthusiastic person; otherwise why would they go through the trouble to be there at The Lab. And this enthusiasm is infections. People seem like they want to be working there. If you live in Orange County and are tired of the same, dull, lifeless, strip malls; or if you're a visitor and shocked at the shockingly unimaginative nature of much of the landscape, go here. It's a vacation from Orange County in the heart of the Orange County Metroplex Region, the Soul of South Orange County.
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