Aesthetics around decayed shopping malls

Zoltán Somhegyi
University of Sharjah – College of Fine Arts and Design


Shopping malls were and are still particularly popular since the first ones were built in the 1950s. Curiously, both their frequent visitors and their most avid critics see them as the materialisation of the consumer society’s dream. They are thus often considered as almost being “temples” of consumerism, where the activity of “shopping” substitutes other, more traditional forms of sociocultural engagement. In the recent years we can experience an increasing interest in the documentation of decayed malls from a melancholic-nostalgic viewpoint in dreamy visions that in certain cases makes the images similar to the classical representation of Antique ruins. Is it only by coincidence, or is there a parallel between the appreciation of ruins of the temples of Antiquity and the ruins of the temples of consumerism? In case yes, then what can we learn from the attempts of aestheticisation of this decay? What can these series of artworks reveal on our present condition and approach to space, entertainment, consuming and life? I am bringing in my examination some considerations on Detroit, not (only) on the city itself, that has become a reference point, and sometimes even a “playground” for the analyses of contemporary decay, but on Detroit as a phenomenon or symbol, as well as some considerations based on the re-reading of Venturi, Brown and Izenour’s milestone-book.

ruination and its representation, classical and “contemporary” ruins, aesthetics of decay, shopping malls, built heritage and conservation



SAJ Vol. 7, 2015, No. 2