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December 12, 2009 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Ghosts of Shopping Malls Past. : beautiful photos of modern ruins.
posted by grapefruitmoon (44 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was expecting more like this, urban decay like, so this oh so clean picture make me wonder how often malls shut down. That looks pretty brand new.
posted by dabitch at 8:19 AM on December 12, 2009


I will (goes without saying but I say it anyway) hoist this post, though giving due credit, to put up at my site very soon. The question such posts ask, and it seems never stated:

why are we as readers or viewers so caught up in urban ruins, ghost towns, abandoned places?
anyone got ideas on that?
posted by Postroad at 8:24 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


so this oh so clean picture make me wonder how often malls shut down. That looks pretty brand new.

Yeah, the Columbus City Center is actually a pretty recent casualty, is still maintained, and I think it might only be like 99% dead. They claim to have something in store for the site.
posted by spirit72 at 8:25 AM on December 12, 2009


We finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you. God damn you all to hell!
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 8:26 AM on December 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


I love the diagrams for making the big soft pretzels.
posted by marxchivist at 8:34 AM on December 12, 2009


I like those images. Is HDR being use in any of them? I can't tell, so (if it is) it's being used correctly.

Anyway, I think the reason people like to look at these things is because the idea of a modern ruin is still a pretty novel concept. The context of "ruin" is often times a destroyed marble column in Italy, as opposed to a mall that closed down 2 years ago.

There's probably a morbid element to it to, as well as a cultural fascination with the apocalypse. Who hasn't pictured their Mad Max scenario in their own home town once or twice?
posted by codacorolla at 8:35 AM on December 12, 2009


why are we as readers or viewers so caught up in urban ruins, ghost towns, abandoned places?

Most people are heavily invested in the illusion of permanence and denial of change. Religious beliefs and conservative political views in particular emphasize an eternal and unchanging world. Confronting people with the reality that "this, too, shall pass" -- and sooner than you think -- shocks them. It's like someone you know dying.
posted by binturong at 8:39 AM on December 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


This would be an awesome place to link to (again, I'm sure) DeadMalls.com. It's one of my favorite sites of all time. OF ALL TIME.
posted by gc at 8:49 AM on December 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


I just think it's unusual and cool to see these structures, which were built with strong incentives to be kept teeming, utterly deserted with sunlight streaming in. It's a dissonant image, and dissonance is interesting.
posted by cribcage at 8:55 AM on December 12, 2009


why are we as readers or viewers so caught up in urban ruins, ghost towns, abandoned places?

For me, it's because many of those places are stuck in time. It's like looking at an old photo, in person. Or looking at new photo of an old photo, in pictures. :) Being born in the 80's, looking at buildings that were abandoned during that time, brings me back to my childhood. As for buildings that was abandoned pre-80s, it makes me imagine how things were when my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were younger.

Plus, I'm from the clean suburbs. Exploring and looking at pictures of urban ruins, abandoned places, ghost towns (which all tend to in rural or completely urban areas) are a fun change of scenery, something new.
posted by Eleutherios at 8:57 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's a how a shopping mall should look- abandoned and in ruins.
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:05 AM on December 12, 2009



That's a how a shopping mall should look- abandoned and in ruins.

Saw a small squib in the Financial Times the other day under the new and cool electronic section which showed a cell phone with a bar code reader attached, and which connected to the internet so you could check the price of an item while you are at the store and what you could get the same item for on line.

You'll be seeing a lot more of these malls in the foreseeable future. In due course, this may be the only kind of mall you will see

Religious beliefs and conservative political views in particular emphasize an eternal and unchanging world.

They're not referring to this world.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:14 AM on December 12, 2009


why are we as readers or viewers so caught up in urban ruins, ghost towns, abandoned places?

Great question, and one I've often pondered myself. I guess we can't help wondering what we leave behind us when we are gone. Maybe it also ties in to our love of mysteries--I find myself wondering what happened; at what moment did this thriving place of commerce and social activity start to die (and why). And then I start hearing "Dust in the Wind" playing in my head and I try to shake it off and focus on the sunny day in front of me.
posted by Go Banana at 9:15 AM on December 12, 2009


Postroad: why are we as readers or viewers so caught up in urban ruins, ghost towns, abandoned places?

This is an excellent question! Thanks for asking it.
posted by localhuman at 9:28 AM on December 12, 2009


I love this snowy photo of Richland Mall. A blogger found the 1973 photo it's based on, see them both together. I particularly like the irony of the name "Lazarus".
posted by Nelson at 9:46 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Really liked these, thanks.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:52 AM on December 12, 2009


And the televisions on.
Go to the grocery store, buy some new friends,
and find out the beginning, the end, and the best of it.
Well, do you need a lot of what you've got to survive?
Here's the man with teeth like God's shoeshine;
he sparkles, shimmers, shines…
Let's all have another Orange Julius
Thick syrup standing in lines.
The malls are the soon to be ghost towns,
well so long, farewell, good-bye.
posted by four panels at 9:53 AM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


There's a whole blog dedicated to photographing shut down retail shops and restaurants in my city.
posted by chiababe at 10:00 AM on December 12, 2009


I was expecting more like this, urban decay like, so this oh so clean picture make me wonder how often malls shut down.

Quite frequently, actually. One of my first architectural lighting jobs was working with a firm that did a lot of mall renovations. I couldn't tell you how many times I'd walk on to a job site and see a sinking ship with retailers pulling out left and right. When that starts to happen, the fist thing they do is renovate- the old Miami Vice color scheme gets painted over in favor of the current "Ikea-modern" aesthetic, they add some slender black couches in new "amenities areas" and maybe install some kind of fabric sculpture or lattice work in the old skylights. Then everyone oohs and aahs, and the mall continues to decline until a Lifestyle Center is built across the street and finally kills it. The Lifestyle Center is usually built where an even more dated and worse-off strip mall stood. It's like the circle of retail life. In ten years they'll be tearing down the malls to build something across the street from the struggling Lifestyle Centers.

Here's a piece from Slate last year about the rise of the "ghost mall".
posted by Thin Lizzy at 10:00 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


why are we as readers or viewers so caught up in urban ruins, ghost towns, abandoned places?

I think the derelict shopping malls are especially compelling because in the normal course of things, malls symbolize never-ending abundance. Even when you, personally, are down on your luck, the shopping mall is still there, bright and clean and full of shiny new stuff and greasy food and tropical plants. It has a very deliberately impersonal public face, so it never occurs to you that the owner might someday go down on their luck, too -- it may never occur to you that there is an owner. When I was growing up, it certainly never occurred to me; the mall was essentially a public place, as though all these store managers had got together and decided to build a big white building with lots of skylights where they could live and work in perfect harmony forever after. The idea that the mall itself was a business that had to turn a profit never entered my mind.
posted by Commander Rachek at 10:05 AM on December 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


I like finding and looking at and reading about ruins. There's a book called In Ruins that proposes answers: "ruin is a dialogue between an incomplete reality and the imagination of the spectator...reminders of the vulnerability of empire, the fragility of artistic endeavor, and the transience of human ambition." I tried to read it and couldn't get past the pomposity of the first few pages.

Instead, I recommend several good blog posts at entschwindet und vergeht, by an architect and journalist, about the ruin. Quotes:

"one main functions of the romantic – the aestheticising of utterly banal space-time"
"there is still work to be done in working out the intellectual structure of ruinenlust and nostalgia"
"politicised melancholy"
"a bitter and reactionary sense of the lost object, one so very common to fascism, which requires a fictionalised eden-like historical condition that must somehow be returned to...that longing for the future we were promised yesterday."
"the ruin is not an example of some kind of neglect...Nor is it the synthesis of the Power of Nature opposed to the Will of Man...It functions as an effigy of destruction, a memento mori. The ruin is an exception of space that helps to keep the basic spatial order intact; all other buildings can better signify their permanence if there is a space in which spatial decay can be contained and presented as an exceptional circumstance."
"the physical state of the building is not allowed to worsen, and yet it is not improved either. It is at this point that the building ceases to be derelict, destroyed, or desperately in need of repair, and finally becomes 'the ruin.'"

I think some of that applies better to picturesque ruins of castles in parks, rather than to falling-apart retail spaces, but they have something in common.

My pet theory is that ruins are attractively authentic. When I look at an old oil derrick foundation hidden in the forest, or a munitions bunker from the World War II in a secret place on my university campus, I feel like I have direct access to material information about who people are and how they once lived. These things aren't artificially maintained or tampered with — they're semi-forgotten, left in place as they once were. The decay just confirms that they're real.
posted by dreamyshade at 10:09 AM on December 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Cool link.

Saw a small squib in the Financial Times the other day under the new and cool electronic section which showed a cell phone with a bar code reader attached, and which connected to the internet so you could check the price of an item while you are at the store and what you could get the same item for on line.

Heh, my grandmother has one on her iphone. Whats next, gonna tell me how there's this thing called email where electronic messages mysteriously fly through the air?

(just an fyi, you can do this with any iphone or android phone without a 'bar code reader' attached. It's just software. And you're always connected to the internet with a smartphone. Join us in 2009, won't you? :)
posted by Dennis Murphy at 10:20 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for sharing. More of Brian's excellent work can be found at notifbutwhen.com.
posted by interrupt at 10:23 AM on December 12, 2009


With apologies to Shelley:

"`My name is Ozymalldias, King of Kings:
Look on my shops, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level lots stretch far away".
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:42 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Once there were parking lots
Now it's a peaceful oasis
you got it, you got it

This was a Pizza Hut
Now it's all covered with daisies
you got it, you got it"
posted by Crane Shot at 11:13 AM on December 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think death and destruction are endlessly interesting to us, and a perpetual artistic theme, because we all know they come to each of us, to our countries, and to our wider civilizations. Maybe that's why I liked this shot best of all.
posted by bearwife at 12:52 PM on December 12, 2009


There are a few cases where some good has come out of the dead malls (other than a general kind of 'GRAR death to consumerism' kind of thing). Crestwood Mall in St. Louis is currently experimenting with turning the former retail spaces into low-cost art space where individuals or groups can have studios, performance spaces, galleries, meetings, craft shows or just about anything else. I think it's a great use of the open, semi-communal floorplan and cheap real estate. It also offers an alternative to traditional artist-based gentrification, which can be problematic for the existing communities.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 1:10 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


why are we as readers or viewers so caught up in urban ruins, ghost towns, abandoned places?
anyone got ideas on that?


Well, for me at least, it perpetuates curiosity, about how things came to be. Brings questions as to "How did it all get here in the first place?", "What went wrong?", "How can we prevent such things in the future?", and potentially "How could we bring it back, if at all?"

It's a lesson in materialism, social studies, etc. all into one convenient package.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 1:36 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Livejournal communities (multiple people posting their finds):

Abandoned Places
Dead Machinery
Deathly Decayed
Rural Ruin
Rundown Town
Urban Decay

And on Blogspot there's Industrial Decay (one guy scouring Flickr).
posted by Evilspork at 1:54 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


previously
posted by netbros at 2:22 PM on December 12, 2009


I absolutely love the toppled Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket. It's as if the Colonel had been deposed in some kind of a fried chicken coup. ¡Viva el Pollo Loco!
posted by Spatch at 2:48 PM on December 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Don't worry - the zombie's will find their way in.
posted by binturong at 3:10 PM on December 12, 2009


Some of these interiors remind so much of Dawn of the Dead; I keep envisioning zombies and motorcycle gangs.
posted by bwg at 3:21 PM on December 12, 2009


In response to Postroad's question, this quote is from James L. Shulman's introduction to the late Robert K Merton's book The Travels and Adventures of Serendipity:
Legend has it that daemons can be either good or evil, but they are most likely to be found among the ruins-- they may be the spirits of soldiers who lay unburied, of people who died an untimely death (such as Hamlet's father), or of the gods that are left after a city has been ransacked and its inhabitants dragged away.
posted by localhuman at 3:50 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some killer photos here. The giant KFC bucket on its side is pretty funny. Like litter from God. (Although with any luck, God knows better than to eat KFC)

Thanks for the post, grapefruitmoon.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:03 PM on December 12, 2009


bwg: "Some of these interiors remind so much of Dawn of the Dead; I keep envisioning zombies and motorcycle gangs."

Oddly the actual Dawn of the Dead Mall is doing fine and the J.C. Penney store is still there, although they've remodeled a little since '78.
posted by octothorpe at 4:27 PM on December 12, 2009


I remember always being fascinated with ruins, even as a kid. Something about them is just cool, they scream out "explore me," they make you want to run around, climb on things, and find neat stuff.

There's something deeper down there, which even sober adults can still feel the pull of, and which provides an excuse for more highbrow kinds of appreciation. While I can in turn appreciate those appreciations on some level, I don't think the attraction is coming from a cerebral place.
posted by fleacircus at 4:52 PM on December 12, 2009


it's last call
to do your shopping
at the last mall
*
posted by porn in the woods at 5:39 PM on December 12, 2009


Yeah, the Columbus City Center is actually a pretty recent casualty, is still maintained, and I think it might only be like 99% dead.

Nope, it's 100% gone.
posted by Otis at 5:57 PM on December 12, 2009


I'm fascinated with the fact linked to a few days back that, if you divide the land surface area of the Earth by the number of people, you get a figure of like three soccer pitches for each of us, which doesn't seem like an awful lot at all. And on top of that a lot of that land is desert or tundra and thus unappealing or unusuable.

Of course, in the United States we are somewhat insulated from the problem due to having a relatively large amount of land compared to our population. But still, looking at the photographs of abandoned shopping mall makes me wonder how the poor third-world schmuck whose parcel of land corresponds to the Dixie Square Mall feels about our use of his space.
posted by JHarris at 6:27 PM on December 12, 2009


Wasn't the Dixie Square Mall the one that was used in Blues Brothers? Ahh yes, it was. And then later some fan remade the chase scene in the same dead mall, years later.
posted by Wild_Eep at 9:17 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nope, it's 100% gone

So it is! It had been awhile since I was in the neighborhood.


Guess I should watch the news more often.;)
posted by spirit72 at 6:17 AM on December 14, 2009


I'm surprised that I'm somewhat saddened to look at the City Center demolition link. I spent a good portion of my teen years walking there for lunch on Saturdays, as it was one of the closest places to get lunch from the Davis Discovery Center, where I spent most of my teen years. When I wasn't at school or asleep, I was in rehearsal.

In a larger sense, I wonder if there is something better than urban renewal that could happen in these spaces. The Ft. Lauderdale Children's Theatre just took over a section of the Galleria Mall in Ft. Lauderdale and is in the process of turning storefronts into performance spaces. I'm a rotten idealist, but it would be great if we could stop the mall life cycle and use those spaces for something valuable for the communities.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 7:46 AM on December 14, 2009


From the top of the ocean to the bottom of the sky, I am not in that much danger.
posted by at the crossroads at 10:06 AM on December 15, 2009


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