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TOWN-MALL is a transformation of the Lincoln Square Mall in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, designed by Victor Gruen in 1963. The mall was relatively successful until a complex of Big Box stores was constructed outside the city, sending the downtown into decline. In response to the planning department’s interest in reviving the failed city-center mall, we proposed instead to re-purpose the now abandoned and under-utilized Big Box stores at the edge of the city. The project explores how to reclaim the familiar typology of the Big Box as a new public type in the suburban periphery. Through this conceptual bait-and-switch, we began to experiment with the monumentality of the Big Box. Their neutral, familiar, and powerful surfaces held our attention and offered a chance to redirect their iconicity into a new space of civic representation.

The project consists of a thickened perimeter containing the services of the building, maintaining the generic central space. By adapting this commercial space as a stage for collective assembly, the Big Box shed becomes a new agora for social and political life. The opulent marble liner encircling the vast interior of the shed elevates the status of the building as civic. Through a simple reworking of the interior systems and material fit-outs, the project updates the generic condition of the Big Box into a new type of municipal monumentality. 

Included in the Rejected Exhibition at the Banvard Gallery at the Knowlton School of Architecture, The Ohio State University. Curated by Team B, 2019.

Lincoln Square Mall Transformation in Urbana, Illinois, 2018

Project Leads: Daniel Jacobs, Brittany Utting

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