They’re supersized, they’re car-dependent, and they add little to a sense of community. They’re the brutally utilitarian and profit-driven big-box stores that have come to dominate suburban—and, increasingly, urban—spaces in recent years.
Kendra Spanton, MArch/11, above, thinks we’ve become inured to their blight, and she wants to challenge that.
“I don’t want to say they’re ugly,” she says diplomatically, “but they’ve certainly got issues.”
For example? “They have sidewalks, but you never see anyone using them,” she says. “You’re in your car, and when you’re in a car, you’re not interacting with the community, you don’t get to know your neighbours.”
For her master’s thesis, Unpacking the Big Box: Reinterpreting Walmart, the 26-year-old Edmonton native imagined some of the ways in which big-box stores could be made over to mitigate the bad things they do to communities and the environment.
Her ideas are intended partly as critique, but Spanton says some “are certainly quite feasible.” She suggests, for instance, using the hectares of wasted space on big-box rooftops to grow crops or build recreational opportunities such as tennis courts.
“It would be reintroducing some of the original uses of suburban land, bringing some of the ecology back into it,” she says.