Re-inhabited Circle Ks, 2007
Archival Pigment Prints, 24" x 20"
Starting in 1951, Circle K built thousands of retail locations across the Southwest United States. By the 1980s there was a location on nearly every block in cities like Phoenix, Arizona. In the 1980s and 90s a new corporate plan (including filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy) called for many of the original locations to be moved to more profitable corner lots. The shells left by this migration were filled by dozens of small businesses, each inhabiting a practically identical structure. The new occupants paint, put up new signs and modify windows and doors.
I first took interest in re-inhabited Circle Ks while commuting to the University of New Mexico from my family’s home in northeastern Albuquerque in 2000. I would vary my route depending on the traffic and the time of day. Regardless of which way I drove I would pass no less than two businesses that had taken up residence in a former Circle K.
At the time, I was living in a 1950’s tract house in what must have been a typical outlying suburban neighborhood of mid-century America. 40 years ago, it would have been new, sprawling, homogeneous, dotted with chain stores, and lacking the sense of place that comes with time. Now the homes in the neighborhood show the effect of 4 decades of change: new windows, garages that have been converted into bedrooms, yards that reflect shifting views on water use, iron security bars, and upgrades in roofs.
I recognized a similar type change in the facades of corporate architecture. These buildings do not show a linear progression of the corporatization and homogenization of suburbia, but rather serve as evidence of a more circular system – a system driven by a delicate negotiation between same and different, between complicated sets of actions and choices that shape our built environment.
While researching locations in the Phoenix area, I created a database from old phone books, city directories, and satellite imagery from google earth. This database includes address, current occupants, and condition (still standing or destroyed) of all of the Circle K locations found in 1975, 1978, and 1980′s phone books. I combined this information with a google-map website, to create an interactive visual representation of the patterning of Circle Ks and their transformation into a variety of businesses.