Thursday, March 25, 2010

No Sign of Life


On 22 November 1961 the building where I currently work was opened. It was a salubrious Department Store before the advent of mega malls and a very stylish place to shop. As a teen I used to shop among the three floors of fabulous food hall. A poor man's Harrods. They sold just about everything from, quality apparel, homewares and what Australians interestingly call "Manchester" (linen and bedding) to furniture and were one of the first Australian shops to be sophisticated enough to release a 'catalogue'. My mum and I would often browse and have a nice lunch in their restaurant.

Then came the mega malls of the late 70's and early 80's. A huge Westfield shopping centre was built near the Railway station about 1km from the existing building and the whole store moved into the new retail precinct.

The building was transformed into a factory outlet "Brand Smart" where you could by bargain designer brands on two floors and grab a kebab or fast food in the basement. Then another mega factory outlet opened about 5kms away and Brand Smart moved, lock stock and barrel. By now, the building had been listed as a fine example of 60's architecture and is heritage leaving the owners little opportunity to develop it into anything other than four sprawling floors.

The food fast food court and a hold-out newsagency stayed until about 3 months go but they too have now vanished leaving nothing but counter tops and a few sporadically placed plastic chairs. I was too slow with my camera and the food hall has now been cordoned off so I couldn't get through for a photo.

Today, it's a shell. Our office occupies the top floor and there's nothing on Lower Ground other than a little cafe and the ground and first floors lie dormant.

It's as if the whole place has been hit with a neutron bomb or all the inhabitants slaughtered by some insidious epidemic and all that remains are a few shopfittings and of course, the signs that nobody reads anymore. It's rather spooky, no sign of life:

This is the lift to my office, still sporting directions for specific stores . . .


A huge "B" greets each floor as the lift doors open . . .


Escalators remain dormant although signs beckon you to come up and 'load up' . .

Shopfronts remain pristine . . .


There are change rooms to try on your purchases . . .

Signs encourage you to buy buy buy . . .

No matter how smart you get in this mall . . there's no merchandise.

Even if it is all on sale!

Theme Thursday once again so pop along and see what 'signs' others are talking about!

29 comments:

Kath Lockett said...

Hey at least your credit card will remain untroubled!

ian said...

A retail Marie Celeste!

Alan Burnett said...

Fabulous photographs, as ian says " a retail Marie Celeste". Why do Australians call linen "Manchester"? I have a feeling that in Victorian times here in the UK linen stores were often called Manchester Stores because the linen and fabric salesmen used to operate out of Manchester, but I might have made that up.

Brian Miller said...

and that too is a sign of the times...i dunno kinda makes me think of a zombie movie...nice pic!

Jay said...

Wow, it's like a ghost .. um, mall. Fascinating. Wasn't it a bit creepy, walking around all that emptyness all by yourself? I'd love to do it, though!

Manchester? How strange. Do you know why linens are called that?

Sarah Lulu said...

I was thinking it might be spooky ...and an empty energy ..hmmmmmmm...

Roy said...

Wow! That's actually kinda spooky! You actually work in that place? What did they do, put offices on the top floor and everything emptied out from under them? Weird...

nick said...

Yep, all those empty spaces are real spooky. Like everyone ran out of money and never came back to the shops. But Kath's right, less temptation on the plastic!

Why Manchester? I gather Manchester, England, used to have a big cotton industry at one time, so cotton fabrics became known as Manchester goods and then just Manchester. The term isn't used in Britain any more though, everyone refers to bed linen.

Janice said...

Like Brian said...a sign of the times. I see a lot of retail emptiness in my hometown, though things are picking up a bit. Your photographs were spookily (is that a word?) wonderful.

Leah said...

Just incredibly eerie! Somehow portentous. Wonderful photos, and may I say, brave of you for going in there!

laughingwolf said...

tons of north americanos shop on the net, i have as well... no need to worry about the weather, parking, or your car busted into... and home delivery... eventually

Baino said...

Linen is indeed called "Manchester" due to the huge cotton industry begun in Manchester England. We thought it really funny when we first moved here since we hailed from Manchester or thereabouts. And yes, the place is completely empty except for our huge office on the top floor and a small cafe on the lower ground floor, even my beloved Harris Farm Markets has relocated. The building is no longer in the 'retail' district but towers above a street of restaurants. And yes, it was eerie hearing nothing but the click of my heels and the camera!

Tom said...

what a fantastic place to work...really, grab your roller skates and go crazy on your lunch hour!

stay off the escalators, eh?

Ronda Laveen said...

It is kind of spooky. Looks like nobody bought the "Buy, Buy, Buy" campaign. Sad really. We have a ghostly mall too. Never was as nice as this, but even at mid-day, it emits an eerie echo of emptiness.

sEAN bENTLEY said...

Great shots! Wish we had one of those malls in my neighorhood. Oh wait, actually we do.
http://eff-stoplocal.blogspot.com/2009/09/let-there-be-darkness.html

Betsy said...

Is that big B on the floor for Baino?!

Rowe said...

You wouldn't want to be the only one working late at night, or any time really, in that building, would you? Hmm, if there was a nice guy from the office though who was sexy, smart, unnattached and just the two of you ... hehehe. Did I just say that!?

Nanc Twop said...

oh my

Looks like that Food Hall went on a diet...

Pam said...

Thought it was called manchester world-wide. Shows how much I know. My late grandmother worked in the manchester department of John Martins store here in South Australia. One of her stories was about the customer who asked her... "where do I go to get felt?".Her friend in menswear used to love it when people asked innocently "what have you got in mens underwear?".

Sandy Kessler said...

This is fodder for a good mystery thriller..sandy

Megan said...

Wow, can you really wander around the empty areas all you like?

I know this sounds weird, but I would absolutely love to work in that building. Spooky fun!

PattiKen said...

Spooky, the perfect place for a good thriller! Interesting that you were able to wander around with your camera.

My post for Theme Thursday is up here.

marina said...

love the red B

lettuce said...

I think I'm going to adopt this use of "Manchester"

this is a great collection of photos - would be a great set for a film

e said...

I think I'd love exploring in there...

Melanie said...

Id be scared in there, too many hidey holes for freaks. Gosh, i used to be brave once and hitchhiked around Oz and now I am scared of an empty building......

JeffScape said...

Oh, snap... Westfield has invaded Australia, as well?

Gledwood said...

I love a good food hall, me!!

Harrods used to sell something called California Fruits Sugared Almonds, which had a soft, icing-like coating, rather than the traditional hard one. They were well yummy.

Also you used to get Harrods Lights cigarettes, which I thought were well hilarious too. I once bought someone a pack for Xmas %-/...

sewa mobil said...

This is fodder for a good mystery thriller..sand