This article originally appeared on VICE Serbia
During the 1980s and 1990s, dozens of shopping malls were erected in the Serbian capital of Belgrade representing at the time a new, modern shopping experience in the formerly Communist city. They were built almost overnight, and seem to have been abandoned with the same swiftness. They smell of mildew and decay now – the shop windows plastered with newspaper sheets. People who used to come here now shop online, or have moved on to bigger, shinier, newer shopping malls where only international chains and rich local tycoons can afford to rent a space.
I went to visit some of them, to see the state they're in now. One of these malls is Staklenac ("Glass house" in Serbian) – a hideous glass makeshift construction built for temporary use, 27 years ago. It was, unsuccessfully so, built in the image of London's Crystal Palace. Only a couple of shops inside it are open now – some fast food places and newsstands, an internet café and a yoga place. There are days when nobody comes in.
Cumic, a tiny mall in the heart of Belgrade, is an exception. Most shops are as abandoned as in any other mall of its kind, but a collective of 20 Serbian designers are renting a wing of the building to sell their work. Still, one of the designers told me that although they now have a shop in the heart of Belgrade, they mostly sell online.