is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Filmmaker Dan Bell shoots surreptitious videos of dying or abandoned shopping malls. They make for fascinating, car crash-level spectacles that you can’t turn away from—they’re unflinching portraits of the American consumer wasteland, you might say. The one embedded above is particularly creepy; Bell and a friend walk through the corridors of Frederick Towne Mall in Frederick, MD, where the lights are still on low and a haunting Muzak-like soundtrack is piped throughout. It has all the makings of a horror movie, though the climax is not particularly dramatic.
I actually happened across Bell’s videos when someone shared a similar video with me made by someone else: this drone-powered fly-through of the decimated White Flint Mall in Kensington, MD. For some reason the owner of that video does not allow it to be embedded; you can watch it directly at YouTube, and it’s fascinating. Alternatively, the video below is a walkthrough—foot-powered, not drone-powered—of the same mall before a lot of the demolition work was done.
Both of these structures were not far from where I grew up, and it does seem as if the Washington, DC/Maryland/Virginia area is suffering from a spate of foundering shopping malls. But the White Flint Mall holds particular resonance for me because it’s actually a mall from my youth. It wasn’t the nearest one to my house, but I still remember going there countless times with family and friends. The outside is still recognizable but the inside—fully gutted, debris strewn about, wires and cables hanging everywhere—is like an alien planet. I didn’t expect this to make me feel as sad as it did about losing my childhood.+