Artwork depicting various colorful objects and Dollar General placards.

Mono-Poly-Dollar is an award-winning design and research studio

This semester, students at SARUP and collaborating with the University of New Mexico through Mono-Poly-Dollar, an interdisciplinary research and design studio that positions Dollar General Corp (DG), the largest and most influential of the American dollar store triumvirate—Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General—as an existing but untapped infrastructure through which we might imagine bold futures for the relationships between architecture, climate, economics, and culture. 

Mono-Poly-Dollar was selected as a winner of the 2022 Course Development Prize in Architecture, Climate Change, and Society by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture! The winning studio proposal by 2020-2021 SARUP Fellows Lindsey Krug and Sarah Aziz is being taught this semester concurrently here at UWM by Assistant Professor Krug and at the University of New Mexico (UNM) by Assistant Professor Aziz.

The course asks students to re-imagine the architectural canon, challenge their existing value systems, and use the local and familiar as catalysts for change. After visiting a cross-section of the 19,400+ DG stores and distribution centers across the country students will form socio-spatial positions to highlight the understudied small-box vernacular typology as a weapon of discourse and agent of climate activism.

Given its geographic scope, even a small shift in the invasive dollar store’s response to the climate crisis can have a large impact. By critiquing the organization’s commercial, agricultural, and architectural strategies, students will explore how small-box architecture has the potential to create new design regimes to respond to 21st century questions of climate change, equity, and sociality, and propose ways DG can begin to provide antidotes to the silent crises they contribute to.