COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

Placemaking News Roundup: Markets Markets Everywhere

Jan 23, 2015
Dec 14, 2017
The Great Public Market of the week: Mercado Municipal Paulistano in São Paulo, Brazil | Photo by Javier Corcuera

We’ve been talking about markets a lot lately, but not the kind referred to in the recent state of the union address.

Public Markets, from the farmer’s variety to the ever-popular flea, are seeing a huge resurgence in popularity lately, and for good reason. In a similar way that books and vinyl records are coming back (and being sold at some of these markets) there’s a real demand these days for the in-person transaction, not just the "modern" supermarket standard.

But it’s also more than that.

More than just a Brooklyn hangout, these kinds of marketplaces are serious bottom-up economic generators for local communities.

Food deserts, sustainability, and a still-climbing economy, all can be addressed to some extent by a return to the good old fashioned local market. Your neighbor can trade in trinkets or small-scale farmers in the hinterlands can supply locals with fresh greens. When public markets of any size are regular and accessible, they can even replace grocery store trips entirely. And when coupled with other services and activities, they become true community hubs.

For many years markets were, of course, the standard. Market halls were well-oiled machines and grocery stores with their fancy refrigeration simply didn’t exist. Open-air markets took place in the great public squares that anchored every city and vendors peddled wares on the sides of the streets. Whether by community action or simply tradition, some cities have retained or even rebuilt these vibrant hubs of activity and commerce.

Some of these, like Barcelona, are remarkably effective in their approach to the point of becoming Market Cities - places where every citizen has access to fresh, affordable food; places where public markets are the norm. But some cities, following the turbid history of “modernization” that put markets at risk, are making the same mistakes that so many of us made over the last century. Despite their new-found popularity, many markets around the world are endangered and on the verge of destruction.

In short, we think that public markets are on track to becoming a major revolutionary factor in cities in the 21st century. As we continue to push this agenda, we will be gathering your submissions for Great Public Markets on our newly launched Great Public Spaces site and releasing a new public market every week. We will also be highlighting markets at risk and getting your submissions in the lead up to announcing the ten most endangered markets in the world at the 9th International Public Markets conference in Barcelona this March.

We hope you will join us, online or at the conference itself, and continue to submit your entries as we highlight more of these amazing public spaces in the coming months. Stay tuned!

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COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space