From 1978 until 2003, a shopping center in Hamden, Connecticut, was home to a fascinating piece of ‘installation art’ called the Ghost Parking Lot project.

It was created by James Wines, the founder of an architectural / environmental arts organization called SITE. In an interview with the Museum of Modern Art, Wines explained the genesis of the project.

“…a collector of my work, who was a shopping center owner, had this particular parking lot in Hamden, Connecticut. There was a space at the front of the property where nobody went and nobody parked because it’s too far from the actual stores. It seemed blank and ugly, as all asphalt parking lots are. I thought of this idea of what if we could park cars there, just park a row of cars and then cover them with asphalt.

There was the problem of fossil fuel consumption. So I thought it would be interesting since automobiles consume petroleum, putting asphalt (which is a petroleum product) over cars; in a sense, the petroleum consumes the car…”

Adhering asphalt to glass and metal isn’t common, and the artist had no idea how to get it done. But local a paving company and some ingenuity created a piece of public art drew attention from around the world.

An article in the London Observer called it “poetry in asphalt” and Architecture Magazine said the Ghost Parking Lot “…cross-pollinates art and architecture and has been claimed by the pop art, land art, postmodernist and conceptual art movements…” . Sadly, after falling into disrepair, the artwork was demolished in 2003.

Local kids on skateboards enjoying the parking lot cracked the asphalt, weeds grew everywhere, and the buried cars started to rust. Not everyone in Hamden was sad to see Ghost Parking Lot go, as many did not consider the curiosity worthy of the label “public art” but some local businesses keep the memory of the long-gone piece of automotive art alive.

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