Title page for ETD etd-05252008-114425

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Fowler, Kristen Faye
Author's Email Address kfowler@vt.edu
URN etd-05252008-114425
Title An Architectural Alternative to the Big Box
Degree Master of Architecture
Department Architecture
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Rott, Hans Christian Committee Chair
Gartner, Howard Scott Committee Member
Weiner, Frank H. Committee Member
  • Retail
  • Brick
  • Market
Date of Defense 2008-04-24
Availability unrestricted
Wal-Mart has plans to open a store in the town of Blacksburg, Virginia. The fact that there is already a Wal-Mart store, in the town of Christiansburg, just four miles away from the proposed location makes this idea ridiculous for some. A large group of Blacksburg residents are opposed to the idea of a Wal-Mart in their town. The usual complaints are about how it will affect small businesses and traffic.

The core concept of the “big box” store is not the problem. The idea of being able to get everything you need, from motor oil, to toothpaste, is appealing to consumers. The “one-stop-shopping” concept is not the problem; the big box design is. Retailers like Wal-Mart, K-mart, and Target cause adverse effects on the communities they service because their design is does not embrace the surrounding areas. This thesis project is an architectural alternative to the big box store design. I propose two corrective strategies.

The first correction is the removal of the sea of asphalt that acts as a barrier between the store and the street. Parking is coveted in this country; therefore, the car will not be banished. However, an activity as monotonous as parking can not be permitted to take center stage. A parking structure is proposed to be located behind the retail area. This allows the main activity, shopping, to be accessible directly from the street; and for the architecture of the shops to directly interact as close as it can with the fabric of the town.

Instead of one big box, several small structures make up a market place atmosphere. This allows each shop to have its own identity while still being part of a holistic place. The shopper is not funneled through a maze of merchandise all under one roof with no windows. Individual shops, each with their own entries and exits, restore a sense of orientation and give individuals an opportunity to choose how to spend their time. Wal-Mart has expressed an interest in exploring new store designs more fitting to small communities. This thesis is an example of what a new design concept might be.

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