Did you see this? There’s no place like Providence Place Mall

Less-than-ideal housing lottery number got you down? Afraid of getting stuck with summer assignment? No worries, just be a little resourceful and design your own digs like Mike Townsend RISD ’94 did… when he built a secret apartment in the Providence Place Mall parking garage as a getaway back in the noughties.

they should have gone on MTV's Cribs

Home, sweet mall.

For him, PPM Christmas radio ads enthusing about how great it would be to live at the mall really hammered the message home. Taking the idea to heart, Townsend — founder of Providence public art collective Tape Art — and seven of his criminal connections friends created the fully furnished 750-square-foot dwelling, complete with china hutch, cinderblock wall and inconspicuous door. Starting in 2003, they lived in it for up to three weeks at a time, gettin’ cray watching TV on the sofa, playing video games on a PlayStation (which a burglar ended up stealing), and using the mall bathrooms (which surely can’t be worse than the ones in Keeney). A PPM spokesman described it as only “an area with stuff in it,”  but it sounds like he was just jealous of the raddest clubhouse ever. Embracing their hidden lifestyle, the eight squatters later called themselves “the Trummerkind” (German for “children of the ruins”).

The decked-out storage space included a passageway that allowed private access (#mischiefmanaged), which Townsend noticed during mall construction, but the entrance and architectural-anomaly-turned-loft was eventually busted in 2007. Townsend was arrested, charged with trespassing, and exiled from PPM. But man, it was worth it. After getting kicked out, he attracted press attention and turned the four-year clandestine installation into a project “out of a compassion to understand the mall more and life as a shopper” and to explore “what a home means.” Something to keep in mind as you do your ResLife research. Otherwise, there are always the rather spacious Keeney tunnels …

2 Comments

  1. maude

    it’s preposterous that you’re covering this now. “busted in 2007…” famous enough that we’ve been taught about it in classes… the bdh does pvd underground!

  2. Kathy Nguyen (Author)

    I never claimed this was breaking news, just an interesting tidbit of Providence history that not every blog reader might know about (since it was before the time of any current class) and that might be able to provide levity to the housing lottery process. Which classes taught about it?

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