Fast Company started this line of inquiry for me with a piece they published on dead malls. They featured Dixie Square Mall, pictured above from the website DeadMalls.com. Another one is El Con Mall. There are many, many more. Pop culture commentators and analysts talk about malls as our ritual religious gathering places, the temples of western consumerism. For the last ten years, Brian Florens and Peter Blackbird have been taking road trips to visit dead malls and record what they find. Here are some video shots of an abandoned Birmingham, Alabama mall that they visited (a bit less scary than Dixie Square Mall).
Our ideas and most important beliefs get translated into our physical infrastructure so that if you want to know us, you would do well to observe what we do and also what we build. The interesting phenomena is that our ideas sometimes change more quickly than the built environment. Dead malls are a good example. So are ornate downtown churches that are mostly empty. The physical infrastructure is an echo, in some cases, of what we once thought was important.
Business model relics and changing spiritual expressions point to places where the ideas and systems changed more quickly than the physical artifacts that once represented those ideas and systems.
When I was eight we bought a farm in northern Alberta and on the river quarter was an abandoned homestead. The log house, barn and outbuildings were overgrown with trees, grass and shrubs—a powerful imaginative space that I can feel as easily now as I did when I first saw it. It was once a prime location to set up a farm but had, within a few short decades, been made less desirable because there was easier road access outside the river valley. The people were gone. Their ideas inaccessible except as represented by what they had built and left behind.
What are your favourite abandoned spaces? What do they say?