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Hope — Suburban Sprawl Edition

From the Sunday Washington Post:

Big Box & Beyond Today’s Temples of Consumption Don’t Have To Be Tomorrow’s Ruins. What’s in Store?
(may require you to log in – not that I’d set up an online newspaper that way if I ran one)

The Washington Post invited some artists, architects, and engineers to create proposals for repurposing abandoned big box stores.  Images and blurbs about the proposals are here.  They include a couple of nice designs, an expected green-utopia idea, and a suggestion to convert big box stores into litter boxes for giant cats.

It all calls to mind notfoolinganybody.com.

To quote from the article,

This lesson looms because we’re going to have to figure out what to do with a whole lot of big boxes, and soon. There are thousands of them — vast prairies of Targets and Bed Bath & Beyonds and Costcos and Home Depots. Wal-Mart alone has 4,224 in the United States, more than half of them Supercenters into which, on average, you could comfortably fit four NFL football fields.

The “best” part:

More typical, however, is the situation at Walmartrealty.com. At last count there were 189 Wal-Marts for sale, and not because business is bad. A typical available Wal-Mart might be a 40,000-square-foot store (about the size of a football field) that was replaced by a 80,000-square-foot store that was so successful it has been replaced with a 200,000-square-foot store just down the road…

Me?  I imagine American small towns of the mid 21st century that are comprised of nothing but repurposed big box stores.  It would be like the saddest, most Brutalist rendition of a Le Corbusier “ideal” city.

In the corner of one of the big boxes, there will be a museum housing pictures the towns that used to be there.

Outside of Pittsburgh, visible from I-297 (coming in from NW Ohio), perched atop a formiddable hill, there is a target that conveys more than a little of the aura of a Benedictine Abbey.  It gives reason to pause.  And, maybe I listened to too much punk rock back when I was impressionable, but having seen that store glow in the rakish sunlight, I can’t resist the fantasy of some sort of populist and/or anarchist revolution to take those things over to remake them for the benefit of a non consumption-focused culture.

The article appears to have been inspired by a soon to be released book called Big Box Reuse, by Julia Christensen.  The website for the project is bigboxreuse.com − with a fun wiki, for those of you who are into that kind of thing.

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