Artists Build Secret Apartment Inside Rhode Island Mall

Brew tells the animated story of a group of artists knowns as Trummerkind, who secretly built and furnished a 750 square-foot studio apartment in an unused space formed by store walls inside the Providence Place Mall from 2003 to 2007. Artist Michael Townsend, who was at the forefront of the project, lived there for four years after losing his home to the Mall’s developers.

An artist living in Rhode Island, had just lost his beloved apartment. The place had been his home for years, and he had to find new living arrangements, fast. He knew just where to go, the mall. Buried inside the structure was a secret room, a leftover space formed by the walls of planned stores forgotten during construction. He discreetly started cleaning it out, filling it with furniture, and making it into a livable apartment. For four years, he went rent-free, unnoticed.

Secret Home Inside a Mall

Townsend stated that he was inspired by an ad that posited how convenient it would be to live at the mall.

During the Christmas season of 2003 and 2004, radio ads for the Providence Place Mall featured an enthusiastic female voice talking about how great it would be if you (we) could live at the mall.  The central theme of the ads was that the mall not only provided a rich shopping experience, but also had all the things that one would need to survive and lead a healthy life.  This, along with a wide variety of theoretical musings about my relationship to the mall – as a citizen and public artists – provided the final catalyst for making the apartment. 

Mall security finally caught on to what they were doing and quickly evicted them. Townsend was banned from the mall for life.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.