EDITORIAL : Marketplaces as an Urban Development Strategy
by FREEK JANSSENS and CEREN SEZER (October 2013)
Marketplaces are much more than the commercial gathering places that city authorities sometimes take them to be. They are flexible spatial and temporal organizations that provide vivid and inclusive public spaces. As sites of interactions of flows of people, goods and information, marketplaces facilitate an improvised and spontaneous synergy of people and communities, which is at the core of everyday life of the city. Marketplaces, furthermore, provide fresh and affordable food for residents, economic opportunities for those with less access to the labour market, and places to mingle and socialize in areas that lack such facilities.
Historically, marketplaces have been important engines for urban growth, while also providing sustainable solutions to accommodate this growth. But today marketplaces can also be important sites when we want to get a sense of the ‘life’ and ‘heart beat’ of a city that we visit for the first time. In a marketplace, we feel the pulse, the energy, and the potential that cities offer an urban quality that appeals both to tourists and to local residents.
However, marketplaces are also domains of public discontent and dispute. Conflicting interests, for example public benefit versus private entrepreneurship, frustrate ambitious city agendas that aspire to profit from the strategic qualities of marketplaces. This often results in a lack of confidence that cities worldwide, whether Amsterdam, London or Istanbul, have in the benefit of public marketplaces. This is even more important today, as markets are under growing pressure. Increasingly, city officials characterize them as a problem in terms of health and safety, traffic congestion, chaos, and in general illegality, and propose different uses for their often prime locations in the city. This narrative is fed by the international chain store lobby whose spread is not just the global North, but increasingly in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Meanwhile, late capitalist society has paradoxically snatched the romantic image of the marketplace as a tool for urban branding and place-making. Such has been the fate of downtown Boston’s Quincy Market and New York City’s South Street Seaport, for example. However, the revitalization that is being pursued in these practises is commonly linked to exclusive private housing and retail projects. In other words, the romantic image of the marketplace serves in many cases as a catalyst for gentrifying neighbourhoods, rather than improving them in an inclusive way that benefits vulnerable groups in society. In the light of these developments, marketplaces risk losing their qualities as generators of vital public spaces in the city.
Yet, not all is doom and gloom. In parallel to the developments above, marketplaces also emerge as a part of social movements and grassroots initiatives in the city. Recent examples are Sofia’s free food markets and Istanbul’s ‘Solidarity Markets’ that have grown out of neighbourhood initiatives in response to government-led commodification of public spaces, in particular the surrender of a popular square to a shopping mall, in the city.
These issues call for the attention of professionals who put marketplaces onto the urban agenda, this time not as places of exclusion and gentrification, but as creative strategies to improve the lives of all people in the neighborhood. The main question addressed in this special issue is therefore:
How can marketplaces function as urban development strategies that facilitate the interaction among different people and groups in the public space of the city, and hereby support inclusive city life?
We asked our contributors to approach this question from three different angles:
1.Marketplaces and Communities. How can marketplaces support communities? What are the qualities of marketplaces that set them apart from other public spaces?
2.Marketplaces and Governance. How can local governments manage their markets? How can regulation be improved to reflect the adaptability of marketplaces?
3.Marketplaces and Design. What kind of creative spatial and temporal strategies can balance both the needs and restrictions of the communities and governance?
None of these three angles alone can provide an answer to the main question. However, we have taken a bold step in the organization of this special issue when we explicitly asked yes, even poked the authors to look beyond the traditional boundaries of their respective backgrounds and expertise. Indeed, only a bridging of the disciplinary cliffs from social science, to policy, to planning, and to design and all the other routes possible will provide us with a thorough understanding of the potential of marketplaces. The result, that we present in this special issue, is a fascinating set of conversations between various professionals that not only helps us to enhance our understanding of marketplaces, but also generates an exchange between these different ideas grounded in a variety of temporal and geographical settings and situated in both theoretical discussion and actual design.
First, Yolande Pottie-Sherman picks up the sub-theme of marketplaces and communities by discussing gentrification and consumption of cultural differences in Vancouver’s Chinatown Night Market. Following this, Eda Ünlü- Yücesoy’s paper puts the market as a space for social and cultural boundary marking in a historical perspective by analysing historical documents such as travellers’ diaries and memoirs to understand Istanbul’s current government’s effort to close down or relocate its marketplaces. Political power structures and mechanisms of control are also taken up by Linda Seligmann and Daniel Guevara who, when discussing market vendor–police relationships in the marketplaces of Cusco, Peru, pave the way for the next sub-theme.
Chin Ling Pang and Sara Sterling approach marketplaces from the angle of governance as they question the city’s role in the transformation of Beijing’s Silk Market. James Filipi, similarly, discusses gentrification and the aesthetics of inclusion and exclusion in a newly constructed marketplace in Midtown Crossing in Omaha, Nebraska. Freek Janssens and Ceren Sezer, then, lay the first stone for the third focus area of this special issue marketplaces and design by elaborating on the local government’s attitude towards marketplaces in Amsterdam and by proposing an alternative design for small scale, flexible markets that can act as urban development strategies.
The third cluster of papers approaches marketplaces from the perspective of design. Pınar Balat stresses the importance of the physical and administrative design of the marketplace when discussing the future of Amsterdam’s Albert Cuyp Market. Rushank Mehta and Chintan Gohil explicitly link the policy agendas of the city of Ahmedabad to the spatial characteristics of the Jamalpur Natural Market. This special issue ends with a paper by Qiang Sheng, who closes the circle by mapping Beijing’s marketplaces in relation to scale structures of the city to support the creation of local government policy on urban revitalization.
Content of the issue
Market Places as a Development Strategy (FREEK JANSSENS and CEREN SEZER)
Vancouver’s Chinatown Night Market: Gentrification and the Perception of Chinatown as a Form of Revitalization
Constructing the Marketplace: A Socio-Spatial Analysis of Past Marketplaces of Istanbul
Occupying the Centre: Handicraft Vendors, Cultural Vitality, Commodification, and Tourism in Cusco, Peru
(LINDA J. SELIGMANN and DANIEL GUEVARA)
From Fake Market to a Strong Brand: The Silk Street Market in Beijing
(CHING LIN PANG and SARA STERLING
Privatized Transformation of Public Space (JAMES FILIPI)
‘Flying Markets’: Activating Public Spaces in Amsterdam (FREEK JANSSENS and CEREN SEZER)
Socio-Economic and Spatial Reorganization of Albert Cuyp Market (PINAR BALAT)
Design of Natural Markets: Accommodating the Informal (RUSHANK MEHTA and CHINTAN GOHIL)
Hierarchies Produced by Scale-Structure: Food Markets in the Third Ring of Beijing