Amazon Best of the Month, December 2008: From Kentucky to California, the construction of tens of thousands of big box stores over the past few decades has transformed the American landscape. What happens when one of these stores goes bust or moves to a super-sized retail center a few miles down the road? Right now communities across the country are confronted with the challenge of repurposing these enormous physical structures, their acres of parking lot, and the accompanying network of roadways. Intrepid artist and writer Julia Christensen traveled all over the United States to discover the surprising story of how some of them have creatively met that challenge. Big Box Reuse--an appropriately big, square book--describes in words, photographs, and building plans the reincarnation of 10 former retail behemoths into facilities ranging from an indoor raceway and a Spam museum to a health center, library, and charter school. In each case study, Christensen documents and reflects deeply on the big box transformation with respect to each locale's particular socio-economic, political, and cultural history. Big Box Reuse presents "outside the box" thinking on American culture and commerce, community activism, and savvy and sensible redesign of our built environment. --Lauren Nemroff
From Publishers Weekly
Since 1962, big-box stores of 20,000 to 28,000 square feet have dotted the American landscape, their bare-boned appearance, according to artist Christensen, promising bare-boned bargains. But after the box is vacated, sometimes after only a few years, a community is left with a decision about what to do with the structure. Christensen focuses on empty Wal-Mart and Kmart stores to discuss 10 imaginative and successful projects converting boxes into a library, a Head Start center and a senior resource center, among others. Charter schools have moved into empty big boxes, as have churches, for whom, Christensen says, the big box may be the revival tent of the twenty-first century. Christensen's stories can become repetitive, but the themes she draws from her investigations carry conviction and a sense of urgency. She argues that eventual reuse should be a part of a big box's original design, and that information on reuse should be disseminated so municipalities can make informed decisions. But she also questions whether we should want a future landscape of renovated big box stores: We are what we build, she says. 77 color photos. (Nov.)
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