BEFORE: Hamden, Connecticut, 1978 - September 2003
Once upon a time, the New York design firm SITE was famous for a series of stores designed for BEST products; anyone who's read Learning from Las Vegas (and if you haven't, you should) has seen photos of the decorated sheds, one with a peeling facade, another with a forest growing out of the store. In fact, the firm seems to be thriving and continues to design institutions, restaurants, and residences, as well as Danny Meyer's Shake Shack in New York's Madison Square.
Back in 1977*, the seven-year-old firm created a work of public art called the Ghost Parking Lot, which was both a totally cool thing to view and a perhaps-biting commentary on the domination of car culture. The Ghost Parking Lot was essentially a parking lot full of various old cars (a Chevy, a VW bug, etc.) that had been drenched in asphalt. One could imagine that the road had reclaimed the vehicles for its nefarious purposes, although many other interpretations are possible.
I saw the GPL for the first and only time in 2001 before I moved west; its dreary Hamden, Connecticut location added to the general sense of weird despair that the piece conveyed.
And now, the Ghost Parking Lot is gone. Actually, it's been gone, as noted above, since September 2003. The excuse given was that the "cost of preservation" was too high, approximately $175,000, although one wonders why preservation was necessary. The asphalt was peeling off, and the cars emerging from not primordial, but civilized, muck.
What has replaced the Ghost Parking Lot, you ask? More parking.
*SITE's site lists the Ghost Parking Lot as created in 1977, not in 1978 as Roadside America claims. There's more art in that Hamden Parking Lot of the Damned; further report, with photos, in a later post.
AFTER photo copyright Chris Kopley; BEFORE photo copyright Roadside America.