Urban decay and deterioration

January 30, 2008 11:51 PM

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.

Factoria Mall and totem Lake

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.

Retail Wasteland – A Tour of the Totem Lake Mall « The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

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.

Malls of the Seattle Area: A Tour of the Factoria Mall « The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0
Factoria Mall Just Keeps Getting Emptier « The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

Detroit Public Book Depository

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.

It Will Rise From Ashes – Sweet Juniper!

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?

When the Humans are gone

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.

200,000 years for all trace of Man to vanish from the Earth – World – Times Online

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”.

io9.com -Review: Dogs Rule The Planet In ‘Life After People’
Life After People, new documentary – Boing Boing

7 thoughts on “Urban decay and deterioration

  1. mooiness Post author

    Yeah nuclear waste is the biggie. That is why even though nuclear energy sounds good and all for solving our energy crisis, eventually there will be no space left on Earth to store the waste. And then what? Pollute the space in our solar system?

  2. mooiness Post author

    Lupin: if we find another Earth, then we’d do the same things to it. Unless we can recycle everything, and use everything in manageable ways, the mere presence of our species is damaging. So let’s hope technology catches up with our destructive behaviour soon.

  3. dreymer

    OMG. I used to shop at Factoria Mall all the time when I was living in Seattle. It’s so sad to see how it has become. Thanks for the interesting post. It has brought back memories of the good ol’ carefree days.

  4. Brian Lutz

    In the time I’ve been here Factoria Mall has never really thrived, but it hasn’t gone down the tubes to nearly the extent that Totem Lake has. Even now, Factoria Mall still has a decent amount of traffic (the Target store and the discount stores which don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon ensures that) and most of the closures appear to be the result of non-renewed leases in preparation for the redevelopment of the property.

    Totem Lake, on the other hand, has declined fast, and at this point who knows what’s going to become of it? There has been no word on anything with regard to the redevelopment plan for that particular mall in two years now, and in that time they’ve lost two more anchor stores. I don’t think it’ll ever become completely empty, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see DDR (the current owners) give up on it and sell it off to someone else before anything actually happens there.

    Thanks for the links, BTW.


  5. mooiness Post author

    dreymer: no worries! though it’s kinda sad to see a place you know well change for the worse isn’t it?

    Brian: thanks for dropping by! so basically Factoria Mall has always been just around average at best. They should develop it, otherwise tenants won’t come and neither will customers.

    Which I guess is much better than Totem Lake which looks very hard to revitalise, if they insist on keeping the land for a shopping mall.


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