Abandoned shopping cart in the Ghost Parking Lot.

Ghost Parking Lot (Gone)

Field review by the editors.

Hamden, Connecticut

In 1978 the folks at the Hamden Plaza shopping center made a rash decision, and perhaps they've been kicking themselves for it ever since. In that year they commissioned those iconoclastic nuts at SITE ("world famous for its innovative designs," a plaque proclaims) to build The Ghost Parking Lot Project, a blend of consumer totems and double-take public art that has only grown more disturbing with the passage of time.

The Project consists of twenty 1960s and early '70s junker cars, including a Beetle, a couple of station wagons, and an open convertible, buried under asphalt at various depths in a cul-de-sac in the Plaza parking lot, far from the stores but right up against Rte 10. The plaque explains that the purpose of the Project was to take "two typical ingredients of a suburban shopping center, automobiles and asphalt, and transforms them into another frame of reference."

Ghost Parking Lot.

While this Pompeii parade may have been a telling Statement in 1978, it has since decayed into a crusty eyesore -- exactly the kind of Sci Fi End Times effect we appreciate. The asphalt on top of the cars is crumbling -- torn up by skateboarders and the elements? -- and exposing rusting sheet metal beneath. Weeds grow wherever the rot is most pronounced; abandoned shopping carts litter the area.

Another plaque explains the work was "Conceived to generate dialogue in the community based upon an iconography of equivocation and ambiguity." It is probably interesting to hear how that dialogue has evolved as both the asphalt and America's sense of irony has deteriorated.

For the duration of our rainy weekday visit, we have the ghost cars to ourselves. Like other parking lot projects (Cars on a Spike, or the Parking Lot Shipwreck), the locals have long since filtered out the strangeness from conscious thought, except perhaps as a useful landmark for giving directions.

Ghost Parking Lot.

We suspect current Plaza tenants such as Dress Barn, PetCo, and Blockbuster Video aren't thrilled to have these creepy, crumbling bulges up against their access road. It's as if the Plaza paved over Indian burial mounds or something. And while The Ghost Parking Lot might be the first place the plows pile the Plaza snow in winter, during the holiday shopping crush these parking spaces are sorely missed by aboveground vehicles filled with living consumers.

The entombed cars, by the standards of today, are small: imagine the towering lumps resulting if what was buried were Expeditions and Humvees. There are still a few available parking spaces...

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August 22, 2014

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