This week, something different—or perhaps, intensely familiar—via my friend and colleague Mark Byrnes:

Rockville’s White Flint Mall was a big deal in the D.C.-area when it opened up in 1977. But by the time this early-aughts Montgomery County teen was participating in the Mall Lifestyle, White Flint felt second-class to, say, the Montgomery Mall (now known as Westfield Montgomery), where the rich kids had cultivated a see-and-be-seen environment.

To me and my fellow kids, White Flint’s food court design was not much more than a slightly outdated quirk at the turn of the century (This was before a e s t h e t i c was a thing.) But in 2015, artist Signe Pierce’s love of hedonistic neon brought her to this space that we had dismissed. Its illuminated geometric columns, pastel lighting, and seductive landscape mural made the cover of her 2015 photo zine, Dead Malls Go To Heaven. A year earlier it had been featured in a Gawker story aptly titled, “I Can’t Stop Looking at This Dead Mall’s Abandoned Food Court” with photographs by a D.C.-based artist.

White Flint Mall has since been demolished, but the v i b e s of its food court have come to be appreciated since its death, in particular, by Tumblr users under 30 who listened to  v a p o r w a v e  during the Obama years—like myself. Recently, I was perusing videos of abandoned mall footage set to the tune of 1980s hits, edited to sound like they were echoing inside those iconic empty spaces. That’s when I came across the old White Flint food court. This time it appeared as a cover photo for a  v a p o r w a v e mix on YouTube by Spliff Radio. The music, as one commenter notes, is “P E A C E F U L” and the video gives the 1980s malls of North America the half-ironic, half-sincere tribute they deserve.

Reading List:

CityLab created a gift guide, drawing from D.C. Metro’s new, delightfully weird gift shop catalogue. Click through to peruse Foggy Bottom yoga pants (get it?), magnets and, notably, *long* magnets, squishy stress-relieving trains, and much, much more.

Other stuff we have on tap: Do you even “plog,” bro? ¤ What we talk about when we talk about bike helmets. ¤ A woman-designed “post-war miracle” on its last legs. ¤ Ready for self-driving pizza?

Here's what else we're reading, watching, and listening to:

Sugar Hill: Where Hollywood’s black glitterati challenged racist housing practices. (L.A. Curbed) ¤ To [Gwendolyn] Brooks, poetry was citizenship. In Chicago, her radicalism is at center stage.” (New Yorker) ¤ I got 99 problems but a floating island ain't one. (Atlas Obscura) ¤ How pop-up restaurants became a thing. (GQ) ¤ Florida wants to secede…well, only with respect to daylight savings. (Quartz) ¤ “We have seen a huge increase in the number of people traveling to places on the cusp of great change.” (New York Times) ¤ The largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River grapples with the perils and promises of a new pipeline. (Bitter Southerner) ¤ Ichiro Suzuki’s return to Seattle won’t disperse his demons. (ESPN Magazine) ¤ Behold: the era of adult dorm living. (New York Times) ¤

Events:

View from the ground:

@_unplanned captured the dimly lit geometry of FDR Drive in Manhattan, @206_jacob photographed Seattle’s Smith Tower at sunset, @ethan.k56 got a peek of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, and @mallory_wanders shot the bright colors of Mexico City.

Tag us on Instagram with the hashtag #citylabontheground.

Over and out,

Tanvi

@Tanvim

The Navigator newsletter lands in your inbox every other Friday.
Forward to other curious urban dwellers so they can sign up here!

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a full parking lot with a double rainbow over it
    Transportation

    Parking Reform Will Save the City

    Cities that require builders to provide off-street parking trigger more traffic, sprawl, and housing unaffordability. But we can break the vicious cycle.   

  2. A woman looks straight at camera with others people and trees in background.
    Equity

    Why Pittsburgh Is the Worst City for Black Women, in 6 Charts

    Pittsburgh is the worst place for black women to live in for just about every indicator of livability, says the city’s Gender Equity Commission.

  3. Life

    Mapping the Changing Colors of Fall Across the U.S.

    Much of the country won’t see those vibrant oranges and reds until mid-October, which leaves plenty of time for leaf peepers to plan their autumn road trips.

  4. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

  5. Life

    American Migration Patterns Should Terrify the GOP

    Millennial movers have hastened the growth of left-leaning metros in southern red states such as Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. It could be the biggest political story of the 2020s.

×