Dead Malls and Ghost Cities

In 6. Shock of the New, Uncategorized by Lulu1 Comment

I love modern architecture, at least some of the pioneers and canonized figures and buildings. I love the ideas, experimentation and boldness. From Philip Johnson’s Glass House to Mies Van Der Rohe’s ‘modern temple’ at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The seriousness is quite poetic and can be somewhat humorous. For instance Le Corbusier and his ‘machine for living’ Villa Savoye was deemed unlivable.

Yet to me the failure of modern architecture lies in its vast and terribly thoughtless reproductions we find everywhere. The philosophy for architecture to become standardized and reproducible is flawed. In Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape, Kunstler remarks “Modernism did its immense damage in these ways: by divorcing the practice of building from the history and traditional meanings of building; by promoting a species of urbanism that destroyed age-old social arrangements…” One of these modern failures are malls.

Malls make my skin crawl. I despise them the moment I drive into the grid parking lots. The polished stone floors go on for miles. The maze of escalators that lead to numerous levels that look and feel identical. The colossal scale of capitalism. The fluorescent light make my head hurt. Big name stores collapse onto me from all sides. The bizarre placement of palm trees, cars or fountains in random ‘plazas’ within the mall that stand empty. People rush around with eager eyes but no one seems to see each other. If someone dropped me in front of a mall anywhere in the country, with great possibility I would know what to expect without ever having been inside.

Malls feel like a simulations of the real world. They simplify life. It is convenience that rules over experience. I can get my ears pierced, buy my groceries, purchase a new outfit and go to the movies all in the same place. It centralizes the experience of life so that people only have to live within their homes, cars and malls. They are nonspecific and relate to nothing, such as function, symbolism or history.

In Jackson, Mississippi an old mall was turned into the Jackson Medical Mall. It is an appropriation of the ruins of failed modernism. The architecture has no context and can be used for literally anything. Although the medical center looks a little awkward the spirit of mall ceases to exist. It is fast, ugly and dumb architecture.

Similarly, entire cities are being erected with no one to live in them. Others are recreations of cities that already exists, like Paris. They are known as Ghost Cities and are truly terrifying. How can you build a city with no one to occupy them? I highly suggest watching the short YouTube video on Ghost Cities posted below!



  1. I think it is hilarious that a mall was changed into a hospital. I agree with you that the simplicity of modern architecture takes away from any possibility of character, so a space is not really special for what it is used for. The high school I went to was a modern building and was originally built to be a prison. It is so ugly and was miserable looking. There were also no windows in classrooms because they were designed for confinement. I also find the Ghost Cities to be so bizarre. I think a big issue with modern architecture was that it didn’t really consider the necessity of making a space useful.

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