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The term "big box" generally refers to a large, free-standing, single-use building with one major room. These structures are popular among the giant retailers that popularized one-stop shopping. Big box retailers generally stay in their buildings for 5 to 7 years before they inevitably upgrade their operation, which means building an entirely new structure to house their superstore, often within a few miles of the original store. As a result, the United States is left with hundreds of empty big box buildings every year.

The buildings are not designed in response to regional conditions, such as weather, local architecture, or the surrounding landscape. The buildings are the same, town after town, state after state, and they are only there for one purpose: in order to offer every product a person could ever want to buy, all under one very large roof. So, when the superstore has left its walls behind, what purpose could this building possibly serve?

It is within the answer to this question that this problematic situation begins to take an interesting turn. America is beginning to adopt, and indeed adapt, this architecture. Although sometimes the buildings remain empty for a decade prior to their re-inhabitance, towns are slowly reclaiming these empty buildings and making them into something new and useful.