Westfield Corp. is a $27.7 billion global shopping-center behemoth based in Australia, but its innovation arm, Westfield Labs, is very different. To start, it’s in San Francisco. And its chief digital officer, Kevin McKenzie, is free to admit something like this: "It’s easy for people to have a vision of a mall as dead," he says. Westfield Labs is charged with rehabbing old retail hubs; VP of creative services Rayna Wiles calls it "using digital to amplify the physical." And in just two years, Westfield Labs’ crew, which has grown to more than 55 employees, has put into motion several ideas to show how malls don’t have to be a relic of late-20th-century American commerce. Projects are tested in shopping centers everywhere from London to Sydney, with the goal of upgrading the company’s 40 malls worldwide and baking these innovations into its most ambitious effort yet—the $1.4 billion World Trade Center retail complex in Manhattan, set to open later this year.
[Illustration: Tomi Um]
A version of this article appeared in the March 2015 issue of Fast Company magazine.