Big Box Reuse by Julia Christensen
What happens to the landscape, community, and population when large vacant retail stores are repurposed into community centers, churches, schools, and libraries? In the United States, there is a growing trend of big box stores dominating the landscape, connected by highways. When a big box store relocates to an even larger “supercenter,” it not only leaves behind an empty building, but also alters the surrounding environment in permanent ways. These vacant stores cover vast areas of land, with highways leading directly to them and local roads ending at their doorsteps. With thousands of empty big box stores scattered throughout the country, they have become a prominent feature of the American landscape.
In her book, “Big Box Reuse,” author Julia Christensen explores how ten different communities have tackled this issue by repurposing abandoned Wal-Marts and Kmarts into alternative structures such as churches, libraries, schools, medical centers, courthouses, recreation centers, museums, and more. The transformation of these former shopping destinations into vibrant community hubs is captured through Christensen’s interviews, photographs, and videos, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the people involved in these projects.
Each chapter of “Big Box Reuse” showcases a unique renovation, whether it is a big box store transformed into a “Senior Resource Center” or a museum dedicated to canned Spam. These projects highlight the resourcefulness and creativity of the communities involved. However, they also raise important questions about the impact of these imposing structures on the lives of local residents. If spaces originally built for commerce by a handful of powerful corporations become the primary locations for education, healthcare, religious practices, and cultural activities, what does this mean for the future of America?
Transcending Obsolescence: The 200-Year Song of Trees and Cubesats
This article explores a unique project that merges art, science, and technology to tell a story through trees and a spacecraft. The project aims to design a spacecraft that will launch in 2069 and travel to the exoplanet Proxima B. The spacecraft is envisioned as a small cubesat with a lifespan of 200 years, a challenge in terms of maintaining functionality over such a long period. To enhance the project’s storytelling aspect, living trees on Earth have been modified to serve as antennas, harnessing their electrical impulses. The cubesat will communicate with these trees, exchanging data and creating a 200-year-long musical composition. This collaboration between trees and technology will be documented on a Golden Disc, inscribed with concentric circles representing the passage of time. Ultimately, the goal of this project is to create a unique record of life, not through the human voice, but through the intertwined sounds of nature and technology.