Posts Tagged Urbex

Urbex and the Empty Mall

Urbex fascinates me.  Not enough so that I will take it up as a hobby, I’m far to risk adverse for that.  But I look with fascination the photos taken from abandoned buildings and sites around the US and around the world.  Especially the shots taken at long-abandoned amusement parks and Chernobyl.  The latter are creepy, and amazing, and there’s any number of stories they could inspire.

I came across something this week that is in many ways the opposite of Urban Exploration.  But is in many ways the same, and somehow spoke to that same part of my brain.

There’s a mall in China.  It’s called the New South China Mall.  It was built to be the largest mall on the planet, over twice the size of the sprawling Mall of America, nearly three times the size of Tysons Corner Center, to provide some context for my Washington-area readers.  Within the mall there are spaces for 2350 stores.  This is nearly four times the stores that are in the Mall of America, largely because there’s no concept of the massive anchor store within the New South China Mall.  The entire structure is split into seven zones, each designed to mimic the look of a major world city.  There are canals.  There’s an Arc de Triomphe.

And there are 47 retailers.

Let that sink in.  In a mall with 2350 storefronts, there are fewer than 50 stores actually open, an occupancy rate of 2%.  This would be the equivalent of Tysons Corner Center having 6 stores.  The mall is a result of a push in China to build cities to artificially stimulate growth and the economy.  It’s reachable only by car in a city with a population of 6.5 million that has no major airports.  It really is a fascinating take on Urban Decay and Urban Exploration, flying entirely in the face of “if you build it, they will come.”  Instead it answers the question of what if they don’t come.  What if stores don’t come?  What if customers don’t come?  It’s eerie and creepy and wonderful and inspirational.  Well, that is to say it inspires me, but things that inspire me are probably not the kind of “inspirational” that city planners are shooting for.

It’s impossible to know the future of the mall.  There is a concerted effort to save it, because it’s been declared too big to fail, but how does one even go about saving it?

There’s an independent documentary on the mall called Utopia 3 which is available on PBS’s POV site.  I recommend giving it a look.  It’s only about 15 minutes long.

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