Adriana Yoto and her husband Michael Townsend lived for four years undetected in a spare space in Providence Place Mall. Read about their adventure, see photos and a video below.

When Adriana Yoto got married to Michael Townsend, her parents worried Michael would not be able to support Adriana’s affinity for shopping and Nordstrom tastes on his artist income. With events as they are, it looks like they are going to do quite well.

You see, back in 1998 the two of them got fascinated with a mall that was being built just down the street from them. It suited both of their interests. She loved shopping and he loved to study buildings and structure. One day, while the mall was being built, he found a 750-foot storage space that had been abandoned and apparently forgotten. In 2003, the couple started staying there.

It started out as a one-week experiment. Kind of a ‘let’s see if we can do this’ sort of thing. But they kept coming back. Over time, they made the space into a living area. They constructed a wall, moved in furniture and appliances. They decorated and made it into their apartment. It had its inconveniences. They had to sneak out to go to the mall restroom and clean up in the mall restrooms.

Otherwise, it was comfy cozy. They even entertained friends there. They held meetings with their art collective, Trummerkind (German for ‘children of the ruins’).

It became a place for them to retreat from the emotional stress brought about by work Michael was doing. He was drawing life-sized portraits of all the firemen and airline passengers who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

While they were there, there studied the mall obsessively. They studied life in the mall. They studied the layout, the way items were advertised, what sold and what didn’t sell. They basically became experts on what makes a mall the magnet that pulls in so many people.

One day, their life in the mall came to a screeching halt when Michael took a friend, another artist visiting from Hong Kong, to the apartment in the mall. They were met by three security guards who handcuffed them and took them away. The mall claims one of the security guards found the door to their living space ajar during a ‘routine search’. When I read that I laughed out loud. If it was a ‘routine search’, why’d it take them four years to notice it. But that’s beside the point.

The owners of the Providence Place Mall as well as other malls, General Growth Properties, didn’t think this whole episode was cute at all. They threatened to sue. They finally dropped the threats, which is good seeing as they’ve gotten tons of publicity out of this. Michael plead guilty to trespassing and did six months of probation and he’s not allowed to ever go back into the mall. His friend from Hong Kong was released.

But that’s not the end of the story. Adriana and Michael have continued their work. They give speeches on the meaning of mall life. How the mall affects life. What brings people to the mall. Now there’s a new show, The American Mall, that premiered on Monday night. And who knows better about the mall than Adriana Yoto and Michael Townsend.

I suppose, they’ve found a way to support Adriana’s Nordstrom tastes after all.

Adriana Yoto: Living in Providence Place Mall – Video