Someone pulled a gun at a Utah Kmart over the weekend. But what surprised me most was that when I saw the picture below, I had absolutely no idea where the incident happened:
From a news perspective, this ambiguous picture was great because it forced me to read the rest of the article.
But from a building and architecture perspective, it illustrates one of the primary problems with big box retailers: they’re so utterly generic that even a photo reveals nothing about their setting. Though the incident happened in West Valley City (no surprise there), this picture could easily depict the Kmart in Provo’s East Bay. In reality, it could probably depict most of the Kmarts in America. I don’t even know if this picture actually shows the Kmart where the crime happened; it could just be a stock photo owned by the news agency.
Ultimately, the most telling thing in this photo is the hill behind the store and even that is mostly obscured by the ugly building.
The point here is that the best places are unique. They create a one-of-a-kind sense of identity and people appreciate them for that. Downtown Provo is one such place. Many of the destinations people spend money traveling to similarly create settings that emphasize their uniqueness. But locations like the one in the picture above aren’t just ugly, they also deny communities their inherent sense of individuality. And that’s a problem.