Haunting dead mall photo-gallery

The Morning News's gallery of ghostmalls, accompaniment to an interview with photographer Brian Ulrich, is haunting and lovely. So much hubris. So many vinyl plants. These are the ruined temples of consumerism: "How can an economy sustain a lifestyle based on exponential growth and the leisure and wealth to support it? It's not rocket science to expect these kind of illusions to fail. What's strange is how ingrained the brands and spaces are to us that so many were not only surprised to see major retailers and malls sink but were saddened. Many of these ideas were set in motion decades ago."

Ghosts of Shopping Past (via Beyond the Beyond)



  1. I would call these “ghost malls”… to me, a dead mall is just a crappy mall being slowly edged out by a newer mall nearby.

  2. Malls didn’t fail because we could no longer sustain them. Malls failed because:

    1. Suburbanization has became declasse and tacky and so consumers are going back to downtown areas to shop.

    2. Newer shopping malls are constantly being built (nowadays, it is fashionable to design them like faux downtown streets), and why go to an old crusty mall when you can go to a nice shiny one?

  3. The curious thing to me has always been the number of stores that contain nothing essential to life. You could live out your days without ever having a reason to go into any of them.
    Sometimes this takes over a city or a street. Sausalito, CA is like that. Caledonia St. is an original street and has the only stores for the residents. Bridgeway, the main street once had useful stores but that was 50 years ago. Now it’s totally tourist. Long gone are the Purity market, the Tides Bookstore, Ole’s Bakery, and Sausalito Hardware.

    1. What do mean exactly by “not essential to life”? You mention a bookstore, bakery, and a hardware store with appreciation, as if *those* were essential — and they aren’t. It sounds like you just mean “stores selling consumer goods I want to buy”.

      1. dude. a hardware store is in fact an essential. who could live in a world without hardware stores? how would we build potato guns, huh? HOW??

  4. Amazing to me how quickly things deteriorate. I’m not the best housekeeper, but apparently my semi-annual dusting keeps the apartment from becoming a dystopian movie set.

    1. Which is one of the reasons why Fallout 3 (and most other depictions of life set generations after the collapse of civilization) is unrealistic. As others mentioned, this looks a lot like the ruins in Fallout 3. But Dixie Square has only been abandoned for about 35 years, not hundreds.

  5. “How can an economy sustain a lifestyle based on exponential growth and the leisure and wealth to support it?…”

    Uhh, it doesn’t. The actual curve has an exponential growth until it approaches an asymptotic limit caused by resource scarcity or the practical scale of the technologies. I’m pretty sure that business schools teach this.

    The problem is that everyone wants to climb aboard the exponential part of the curve and nobody is quite sure where the limits are, so they act as if it doesn’t exist. The result is what we see here.

    It also happens to be the result of a crashed economy. When the one company of those one company towns that supported these sorts of things go out of business or leave for greener pastures, this is the consequence. I fault politicians for not learning to diversify their economic bases, but we can’t all be geniuses…

  6. I think Roy’s point is that those useful stores (hardware stores, book stores, etc..) are pushed out of malls and main shopping areas by stores that sell nothing of any use to anyone who doesn’t need posters of babies playing the sax, plants with a built in fish bowl or pizza sized cookies.

  7. Not all these malls are closed, btw.

    Between this and the Goldman Packs Heat story, I’m getting a little antsy about epistemology and fact-checking among the non-MSM, no offense.

  8. It’s a striking photo. Assuming the building was not in danger of toppling down on itself, I’d think you could clear out the debris and still have a useful space. I could see a skate park or roller rink. Emergency housing also comes to mind. I wonder if there were a way to make that work economically.

  9. “Malls are like bananas – You get some at one price and get rid of them at another. Some of them go bad. Those you throw out.”

    — Real Estate Developer Haywood Whichard, who was unsuccessful in revitalizing Augusta, GA’s Regency Mall.

  10. I will never understand how the place that references every cross-stitched Mario Brothers wall hanging and steampunk toilet brush becomes a pitch-fork bearing mob whenever the topic is about what everybody else chooses to buy or do.

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