You might already have seen this small gallery of images showing an abandoned shopping mall in Bangkok, now partially flooded and “infested with koi carp and catfish.” The images—taken by Jesse Rockwell—were originally published on the photographer’s own blog back in October.
“At some point in the early 2000s,” Rockwell explains there, “an unknown person began introducing a small population of exotic Koi and Catfish species. The small population of fish began to thrive and the result is now a self-sustained, and amazingly populated urban aquarium. I will not tell exactly where it is, as locals somewhat discourage people visiting it. In fact we had to wait for a policeman who was parked on his motorcycle in front of the gate to leave before we timidly entered.”
The sight of an eviscerated old escalator dissolving with rust, its internal cables now exposed to the air like the roots of some future tree, surrounded by the white blurs of fish, is particularly evocative.
Perhaps offering us a glimpse of things to come, this Bangkok mall inadvertently reveals what the outer coastal suburbs of the U.S. east coast might look like in the century to come, as the waterlogged edgelands of cities will be slowly but totally reclaimed by rising waters. Escalators, subway stations, and basements all turned into polluted fish farms for the deeply impoverished, families and entrepreneurs harvesting their protein in what used to be lobbies and parking lots. From malls to salt marshes.
Put another way, perhaps the real future of urban agriculture is actually urban aquaculture: slithering pens of marine life bred amongst the ruins of lost megastructures.
[Image: From Flooded London by Squint Opera].
If you recall Squint Opera’s 2008 project, Flooded London, with its images of people fishing in the streets of a semi-submerged metropolis, then you’ve probably got a good sense of what things might eventually come to look like, as scenes like these—appearing poetic and even whimsical to us today—will be nothing more than the sad, everyday conditions of a coastal disaster to which our descendants will somehow have to learn to adapt.
Catching eyeless fish in abandoned shopping malls and living in networked tents attached precariously to the dark ceilings high above, our distant and greatest grandchildren will see images like these and wonder how we ever found them extraordinary.