Dead Malls, Everywhere

Damaged escalators in an abandoned shopping mall sunken by rain flood waters
Shutterstock

One more installment on the question of whether an unloved and unsightly part of America’s infrastructure—the giant sprawl-malls that drained business from classic downtowns in the 1960s and 1970s, only to become bankrupt dinosaurs in their turn—might actually become the sites of civic and architectural rebirth.

The original post, about Fort Wayne, Indiana, was here; followed by this (partial) defense of malls; and this elaboration on what is happening to malls around the country.

More via the wisdom of the readership:

1) Maybe the deadness of the malls is a feature, not a bug. A reader points out that one mall has been put to good use as a set for horror or zombie movies:

Here’s a timely article about another use for a (largely) vacant mall:

I had remarked to a friend a couple of years ago that this mall could be used to good effect in a Walking Dead episode (which is also shot in the Atlanta area).

Of course, it’s not feasible for every city to promote/develop itself as “the Hollywood of the [REGION],” and even here the community would be better served by the space having some continuous utility, rather than occasional use as background scenery.

Perhaps, taking off from the retro film set starting point, some locale could convert an old mall to a Mall Museum, with different wings featuring now-defunct chains from different eras.


2) What did the mall designers have in mind? From a reader in California:

Not long ago, as I exited the campus environmental design library here at Berkeley I spied the free book truck outside the door. Among the books: Louis G. Redstone’s New Dimensions in Shopping Centers and Stores, published in 1973. I nabbed it, and now it’s mine. It is a treasure, not least because its target audience is the mall designer.

I am one of those kids who didn’t exactly love the mall, but very much appreciated it. New Dimensions is devoid of nostalgic sentiment; it’s a documentary history.

Of course, suburban malls like the ones I visited as a kid were also in their own ways monuments to racism and capitalist rapaciousness. We need not mourn their loss, then, except for the fact that their replacements are arguably much worse in either or both respects.

I don’t believe you noted sites like this in your recent posts. Depictions of the ruins of malls are now a “thing,” as they say.  Also see this, from a Pacific NW design journal.