Work Title: Big Box Reuse
Work Author(s): Julie Christensen
Hardcover $29.95 (220pp)
Reviewer: Aimee Houser
Across America, "big box" stores rise like bland jewels in settings made just for them---huge parking lots and highways built or diverted to direct traffic flow. With the landscape so altered, what happens when a chain abandons a store to build a larger one nearby? Julie Christensen's Big Box Reuse examines just that: adaptive reuse of Wal-Marts and K-Marts by communities, business people, and city councils. In ten chapters, Christensen describes ten examples of citizenry making sites over into charter schools, museums, libraries, a chapel, a justice center, a raceway, centers for health care, and a flea market. Christensen, an artist, researcher, and academic whose work has been featured in galleries and profiled in the New York Times, breaks out of field and genre to explore the process and product of such reuse. She frames each chapter as a case study, but mixes up the form by including personal details: "I think back to my childhood in Bardstown, Kentucky, where historically the city's churches, hospitals, and most schools were within walking distance." The design of the book itself makes tangible the process of taking a received form and making it unique and specific: the book is square, and the generous page margins emphasize the shape---yet each page yields surprising...