Why not repurpose the increasingly emptied interiors of the Big Box store and redeem them from contemporary narratives of decline? Although it seems that capital has replaced representative forms of government and governance, how do we resist consumption as a the only proxy for citizenship? By first acknowledging that the suburban periphery is the most contested political arena today, we can revive the familiar typology of the Big Box as a radically accessible space of civic identity. Co-opting the Big Box as a stage for voting and canvassing, local engagement and municipal assembly, this reusable container will highlight the proximity between consumer desire and political choice. The physical nature of the campaign, coupled with the paperwork of the bureaucracies of democracy, constitute a resistance to the expediencies of digital communication, insisting instead upon the presence and face-to-face time of civic engagement. The opulence of the liner within the ultra-cheap shed of the Big Box accentuates its commitment to accelerating models of capital, yet at the same time elevates the status of the building as a civic space. The vast interior, empty and neutral, formalizes the space as one of dissemination, persuasion, and rhetoric. Its sheer monumentality contrasts with the continuously reshuffling stacks of paperwork, yard signs, bowls of campaign pins, and other debris of the democratic process, emphasizing the provisional nature of the relationship between architecture and citizenship. In the rewilding suburban mall-scapes of middle America, how can we reclaim these territories for a new civic-pastoral? Regurgitating Mies van der Rohe’s concept for a Convention Hall, this TOWN-MALL / TOWN-HALL questions this new alignment between the performance of commerce and political participation.
2018 Lincoln Square Mall Transformation in Urbana, Illinois. Proposal.