A Mall Parking Ramp

Not just any mall – the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, one of the world’s largest. And not just any parking ramp – this thing stretches for blocks, on the East side of the MOA, and there’s another just as big on the West side. The total capacity is over 12,000 cars.

I live nearby, and one night I was struck by the the weirdly dystopian sci-fi look of the ramp in the dark, its awesome size, and just the absolute craziness of it: I had to do a photo. It took me a couple of return trips to scout out the best vantage point and capture it as a panoramic.

The Mall of America is basically a colossal temple dedicated to two gods: Retail, and The Automobile. They’re symbiotic, it’s almost hard to imagine one existing without the other. Pilgrims perform a simple ritual; they drive here, park, and buy stuff. Approach this massive edifice on foot, and you’re an unwelcome outsider at the ramparts of a great fortress. See that tiny door to the right of the center of the photo – can I really go in there, is it ok? It looks scary.

At night, from across the street, it’s a Death Star in the blackness. There’s no traffic on a week night with COVID-19 everywhere. No one is walking around here. I stood alone in the wind and took a series of 7 shots to cover it from end to end.

I stitched the images using the excellent PTGui application, which offers many choices for the projection, and several degrees of freedom to adjust point of view and perspective. It’s all a matter of taste. I chose a projection that I thought conveyed the massive size and the feeling of standing at street level.

I’m totally ready to accept that no one else finds this photo interesting, but it says something to me – about the enormous resources we devote to consumer goods, and the vast urban spaces dedicated to the automobile. I had to do it.