Willow Lawn Shopping Center opened in Richmond’s Near West End in 1956. The development was a new frontier in the city, giving concrete form to the postwar American Dream of middle class suburbanity. In the mall’s periphery a new type of suburban landscape was being developed. Offices, hotels, and apartments were created, replicating the economic diversity of the old city center on a horizontally stretched plane. The vast spaces between building plots were filled alternately with asphalt and trimmed grass. On this open podium, mid-century architects set to work creating exuberant modern sculptures to be viewed in the round.
In the past half century, development has pushed further west and intensified. The suburban landscape is no longer remarkable; instead it is expected. Meanwhile, changing demographics and tastes have left the office parks of Willow Lawn feeling antiquated despite the atmosphere of optimism in which they were made. Its buildings now stand as surreal monuments, simulacra of a future that never materialized.
This series of photos attempts to capture the unique landscape of Willow Lawn.
Photographs by author.