I stumbled across some fascinating posts from two different blogs over the past few weeks. Both talked about urban decay and deterioration. I’ll start off with the topic that most of us will be familiar with: shopping malls that have seen better days. The writer Brian Lutz talks about the neglect, the dwindling clientele and the general malaise of two Seattle area malls that you see here.
One is called Totem Lake Mall.
Originally built in 1973, The mall is split down the middle by a road, separating it into two halves (hence the name “Totem Lake Malls” as seen on the signs.) The mall has faced a long, slow decline since the late 1990s, accelerated by the recent loss of three of its major anchor stores, leaving most of the enclosed mall portion of the property vacant.
The other one is called Factoria Mall.
Several long-standing stores in the mall have now closed down after the mall’s management did not renew their leases. Among the recent closures are the Flavor Bakery and Cafe (which is apparently moving to a new location in Redmond,) the B. Dalton bookstore and the Orange Julius. According to the post, the Jamba Juice (which, as I noted in my earlier post, replaced the mall’s arcade just a few years ago) and the Seattle’s Best Coffee near this entrance are also going to close, although for the time being both of these are still operating.
The post from the second blog is about the abandoned Detroit Public Book Depository.
This is a building where our deeply-troubled public school system once stored its supplies, and then one day apparently walked away from it all, allowing everything to go to waste. The interior has been ravaged by fires and the supplies that haven’t burned have been subjected to 20 years of Michigan weather. To walk around this building transcends the sort of typical ruin-fetishism and “sadness” some get from a beautiful abandoned building.
The floor is littered with flash cards, workbooks, art paper, pencils, scissors, maps, deflated footballs and frozen tennis balls, reel-to-reel tapes. Almost anything you can think of used in the education of a child during the 1980s is there, much of it charred or rotted beyond recognition. Mushrooms thrive in the damp ashes of workbooks. Ailanthus altissima, the “ghetto palm” grows in a soil made by thousands of books that have burned, and in the pulp of rotted English Textbooks. Everything of any real value has been looted. All that’s left is an overwhelming sense of knowledge unlearned and untapped potential.
The posts from both blogs are infinitely fascinating, albeit a tinge depressing. There’s nothing more haunting and jarring than seeing man-made environments void of life and human presence. That is why the scenes in “28 Days Later” and “I Am Legend” where the characters walk about empty urban environments are so effective. The empty streets of London and New York – wow.
Here’s something else that I stumbled on whilst researching this topic. Have you ever wondered what would happen to our planet when humans suddenly disappear?
If man were to vanish from the face of the Earth today, his footprint on the planet would linger for the mere blink of an eye in geological terms.
Within hours, nature would begin to eradicate its impact. In 50,000 years all that would remain would be archaeological traces. Only radioactive materials and a few man-made chemical contaminants would last longer — an invisible legacy.
If you are still not feeling depressed, here are a couple more links to finish off this post with. Both are talking about a documentary titled “Life After People”.