Guerilla Squat

Michael Townsend was curious about his new neighbor, the Providence Place Mall, so he moved in.

When the massive Providence Place Mall, in Providence, Rhode Island, opened up just steps from his home, the artist Michael Townsend wanted to reconcile his distaste for the eyesore with his curiosity about his new neighbor. So he moved in. Townsend and seven other artist-squatters established a makeshift apartment in an unused and apparently unnoticed 750-square-foot storage space within the building's bowels. Beginning in 2004, the group's members lived in their apartment-in-a-mall for weeks at a time, surviving on takeout from the food court. They did their best to emulate a real home, toting Crate & Barrel drawers, a china set, and a couch into their cinderblock-lined space. The collective's occupancy came to a premature end in October of this year when mall security busted Townsend after discovering an online video of the apartment. He's been charged with trespassing. "The tragedy was that the plug was pulled before it got even more ridiculous," says Townsend, who had had plans to move in for a full year. He was arrested just three days before he installed wood floors.LEARN MORE