Friday, 25 April 2008

West Edmonton Mall

West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, was one of the first megamalls in the vein of the Mall of America that included theme parks, aquaria, mini-golf and other large-scale diversions in order to bring in customers. Over the past decade, in order to revitalize itself, the mall has been adding massive amounts of fibreglass in the shape of neat things.

Of the greatest interest are those around the former submarine lagoon. It was once joked that West Edmonton Mall had a larger submarine fleet than Canada itself... Much like how it was joked that Disneyland had one of the largest sub fleets in the world. Like the Disneyland version, this one involved a trip to a ship graveyard, an attack by squid and the discovery of Atlantis (as well as one of the original sharks from Jaws and an underwater T-rex locked in mortal combat with an anaconda, for some reason). Where the W.E.M. version differed from the Disneyland version was that the mall's had real fish: actual glassed aquaria were set into the heavily chlorinated water of the ride. The showpieces were the lavish tanks also visible from the underground Sea Life Caverns aquarium and the underwater view of the dolphin enclosure.

The submarines are long gone now, lying motionless along their former track while bumper boats and radio-controlled pirate ships use a postage stamp of the lagoon's real estate. The trick-performing dolphins are gone as well... Victims of the unhealthy, recycled air of the mall. A group of performing sea lions have taken their place. But to bring some life back to this part of the mall, they've neatly dressed it up in fibreglass imitations out of Jules Verne and Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

The main piece is the entrance to the Sea Life Caverns, which looks like a piscine submarine. Descending the stairs, the interior mostly retains the Victorian metalworking look.

Also lurking around the former submarine lagoon is this drydocked subpod...

Which thematically links to an identical fountain/subpod at Professor WEM's mini-golf course...

Once upon a time, the mini-golf course at West Edmonton Mall was a scale replica of the famed Pebble Beach course. Rather elegant with its rockwork, streams, ironwork bridges and the like, Pebble Beach visually matched quite nicely with the Europa Boulevard shopping area above it on the second floor. Formerly a wonderful place for fashion shopping or taking in a light breakfast at a cafe (inevitable if you were staying at the mall's Fantasyland Hotel), Europa Boulevard is a soaring, skylighted, Vienna-themed district.

Times change and in the place of the course's elegance and credentials, it is now a heavily-fibreglassed wacky-putt with the sole saving grace of being a Victorian mad scientist's cartoon fantasy. The centrepiece is Professor WEM himself, in his flying machine (which, unfortunately, reaches up and into Europa Boulevard's visual range).

West Edmonton Mall also sports a theme park called Galaxyland (formerly Fantasyland, until Disney filed a lawsuit), a waterslide/wavepool complex, a skating rink, multiple movie theatres and casinos, the Bourbon Street and Chinatown shopping areas in addition to Europa Boulevard, the Fantasyland Hotel with numerous theme-rooms (including Polynesian, African, Arctic, Victorian Coach, Railroad, and Old West), and a full scale replica of Columbus' Santa Maria.


Colin Anderson / West Edmonton Mall / canderso at wem dot ca said...

We enjoyed your post. Thanks for taking the time to write it out. Your other writings are quite good, as well.

Derek "Ruthven" Tatum said...

Hey Cory - sorry for the spam, but I have updated my site to http:// .

On topic, great write-up.


Viewliner Ltd. said...

This is truly an Extraordinary Voyage. Thanks Cory. Awesome.

Alyssa Ray said...

Thanks for sharing your pictures and this great post! Now I want to go to Canada just to see the West Edmonton Mall!

Anonymous said...

Just looking into the steam punk subculture and found your post on WEM. Its nice to read how someone else views it, as living in the city 5 minutes away from the mall for most my life has taken the thrill away. When I go past the mini-golf all I can think of is tacky - completely overlooking the Victorian.