Monday, March 30, 2009

Century III Mall

This is one of those "flagship" commerce centers of the late seventies, early eighties, the Golden Age of Shopping Malls. Malls were being romanced via Film and TV, and they were popping up everywhere. The general rule was you could only build a new mall if it was going to be bigger and better than any to have come before, and nobody could imagine a time when we would not be spending our leisure shopping in indoors.

Despite being located almost an hour away, Century III Mall's draw was powerful enough to get families like mine to pile into the car for some epic holiday shopping. Naturally, as a special occasion, I would come away with some cool toy, at times Star Wars, Smurfs, or a transforming robot. Recently, while wandering around with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, I couldn't help but notice the optimistic attitude embodied in the architecture of the building. Lots of crazy angles comprised of wooden railings and faux sandstone, and lots of open space.

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M.C. Escher to food court

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Last vestiges of "Tiki"

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"Atmosphere controlled comfort"

A lot of malls built during the era of "Falcon Crest" and "Dallas" feature a similar sci-fi aesthetic, looking like a scene from "Logan's Run" or "Blade Runner" but Century III stands out as the definitive example, in Pittsburgh and beyond.

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Close Encounters of a IIIrd Kind

Unfortunately, the place is a little dilapidated these days, reflecting the throw away culture that constructed it. Some of the store fronts are empty, yet considering the close proximity to Wall-Mart it's actually not doing too bad. Even though the only reason I went there was for the comic shop on the third level, Century III cannot yet be referred to as a "Dirt Mall"

One of the more impressive elements that has since fallen into disrepair is the parking garage. A massive shelf is now shut off to traffic, probably due to structural deficiencies. This overflow of parking funneled consumers onto the third level of the mall, over the food court. This third level is now home to Sears, the army recruiter, said comic shop, and a similar geek resale shop specializing in toys and media.

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The Forgotten Parking Lot

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Stairwell to Lower Level
Monkey Wards

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Next to Sears

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Beneath The Forgotten Parking Lot

Considering the current retail environment and whatever trends coming along to further seal the fate of the indoor shopping mall, it isn't likely that this parking garage will ever be repaired. Mall management will probably demolish it first, but only once it becomes absolutely necessary to do so. At one time this was essential space for vast numbers of parked cars.

This report is dedicated to the great memories of a bygone era of commerce and community, especially as it occurred at Century III Mall.

1 comment:

gina said...

Hi, I'm Gina the Mall Manager of the Century III Mall. Your post is reflective and fair. I appreciate that. I hope we can keep in touch as we begin to roll out a year of community events celebrating our 30th year.
Sincerely,
Gina Mercorelli
Simon Property Group