meet. If consumption space is becoming one of the most important and culturally diverse public domains, there are reasons to protect (and devel-op) the public dimensions of those domains. The material constitution of consumption space is a key aspect to focus on if we, as a society, want to safeguard public features such as accessibility and opportunities for social interaction with friends as well as with strangers.

The interdependency between public life and consumption space is not a new phenomenon. Historically, public space is deeply intertwined with commercial activities. The Greek agora was bounded by small stores, and in medieval times the marketplace represented the major public meeting place. The most vibrant public life of early modern Paris and London took place in the (private) coffeehouses there (Habermas 1989 [1962]); Mada-nipour 2010). These spaces were not public in an orthodox sense of the concept though; they were open to certain, privileged groups only. Today, a major part of socially mixed public life can be found in shopping malls, street-markets, cinema complexes, commercial sport events, cultural festi-vals, etc.

Temporary material interventions such as open-air markets can pro-duce, stabilise or destabilise the territorial structure of urban space, with major implications for accessibility and the nature of social interaction. In urban spaces of consumption, one can observe that complex combinations of social relations and use can exist and overlap in space as well as in time.

Spaces of consumption may often be the most socially mixed spaces in modern cities. This calls for profound analysis of how these spaces are de-signed and what influence material design and spatial form may have on everyday public life, territorial production and territorial complexity in public domains.

Preliminary Notions:

Mapping London’s Open-air Markets

A major part of the fieldwork in London was carried out in March and April 2012. The main field study sites were revisited on two occasions, in October 2012 and in October 2013. The first days were spent making a preliminary survey of pre-selected markets to find one or several to study in detail. I travelled between the markets according to a pre-established plan, allotting a one-hour visit at each potential site. After two days I de-cided to focus on four markets: one primary site (Borough Market) and three secondary sites (Portobello Road Market, Petticoat Lane Market and Brixton Market). Observations that had been made at the other markets were kept as reference material. In the days that followed, I divided my time between the four selected sites. The choice of Borough Market as my primary study site was rather intuitive but quite easy to rationalise in retro-spect. The complex topography and the rich composition of visitors with varying objectives and backgrounds promised an interesting environment for the study of socio-material exchanges and clusterings.

A regular day started with an early morning visit to Borough Market to observe how people working in the market and in the neighbouring shops, cafés and restaurants prepare for the dawning day. The ambience is char-acterised by routinized activities, and it is obvious that all those involved know exactly what to do and in what order. It is also evident that the people active at the site at this early hour are rather well acquainted; they interact, make jokes and toss comments back and forth whilst going about their practical endeavours almost automatically. Commuters start passing through the site quite early in the mornings, on their way to and from workplaces or public transport nodes. They make up a specific category at the site, with its own pace and agenda. Market-workers and commuters almost seem to exist in parallel worlds and without any apparent relation.

Sometimes, though, the stream of commuters interrupts people with carts and other transportation vehicles, causing minor conflicts; of course, from their perspective, the commuters occasionally experience the situation as being the reversed. After surveying the different parts of the market I stopped at the Monmouth Café and ordered a coffee-to-go, and found a place to sit down and make notes about the morning’s observations.

After about two hours at Borough Market, I usually travelled with the underground to one of the secondary markets for further observations and documentation. After visiting a secondary market, I either returned to Borough Market or continued to another secondary market site. I spent about one hour each at two of the secondary markets every day, and at least three hours daily at Borough Market. The visits were planned in order

to guarantee observations at different hours and on different days of the week at all four markets. On most days the temperature was well above ten degrees and the weather conditions were almost perfect for outdoor studies of public life, although I occasionally had to seek cover from rain.

A lot of people were active and using the study sites according to typical, everyday practices.

During the investigation of the four open-air markets it became ob-vious that the territorial complexity is typically higher at the outskirts of the market spaces, where the market functions collide with adjacent ur-ban spaces. Additionally, the territorial complexity increases further when material irregularities that offer alternative uses are present; for example, elevated platforms, such as traffic islands; clusters of urban fittings, such as bollards, posts and pavement signs; or steps that are suitable for sitting.

Territorial productions, behavioural patterns and social rules and policies are more ambiguous at the boundary areas than within the actual market space. The market space is normally well structured, with effectively organ-ised stalls and communication routes. The rhythms of the markets are ex-tremely regulated by hour, day and season. The uses are specific and rather singular. Material actors, such as geometrically arranged paving stones, painted squares on the ground, bollards, fences, walls, kerbstones, roof structures, etc. stabilises the consumption territories and thereby also the communication routes. At the boundary areas however, the market rules and territorialisations meet the rules and territorialisations of the surround-ing urban spaces – public as well as private – and a potential for higher territorial complexity emerges. Different territorial productions meet and overlap, and a wider variety of actors become entangled. The rhythms and activities of the markets intermingle with those of the surrounding public spaces, streets and stores. The accessibility is higher and the possibilities for spatial appropriations seem to be easier in these boundary spaces.

Since most of the markets studied are located adjacent to public trans-port nodes (underground stations, railway stations and bus stops) there are flows of people passing by or through the market grounds, mainly during commuting hours. The rhythms of the commuters interact with the rhythms of the markets and with those of regular urban life. The differ-ent rhythms induce overlapping territorial productions and consequdiffer-ently increase the level of territorial complexity.

The movements of market visitors generate currents as well as con-gestions, while commuters and people just passing through establish a

“highway” through the market, particularly in the early mornings and late afternoons. The flows of people produce territories of movement that flank and overlap more static spaces, where visitors are clustering to eat, drink

and rest. Because of the streets and lanes that transverse and surround the market space, there are cars, bicycles, carts and trucks passing through or stopping to deliver goods to the vendors and to adjacent permanent commercial establishments. These vehicles produce, or rather stabilise, ad-ditional territories of movements, such as streets, lanes and parking spaces.

The territorial complexity adds dynamics that sometimes result in con-flicts, for example between strong pedestrian currents, delivery vehicles and informal territorial appropriations produced by people eating take-away and drinking beer.

In the study, the open-air markets were preliminarily sorted into three spatial categories based on their territorial and spatial structure: conglom-erate order, composite order and linear order. Borough Market represents the conglomerate order; Brixton Market represents the composite order;

Portobello Road Market and Petticoat Lane represent the linear order. Pet-ticoat Lane could also be referred to as a grid structure – a variation on the linear order. These four markets were chosen since they signify different sets of spatial, material and geometrical prerequisites. The conglomerate order is a complex, undirected and amorphous space in which different market types are nested. The composite order is a mixture of different market types, added to one another but clearly discrete as separate and coherent units. The market space with a linear order is a geometrically dis-tinct and evidently directed space, primarily designed for movement. The three orders provide opportunities to compare how various artefacts affect and become enrolled in the production of actions, social exchange and the formation of collectives in public space and in different urban landscapes.

The level of territorial complexity is partly dependent on the market type. Comparing the different market categories, there appears to be a higher territorial complexity in markets with a conglomerate and com-posite order than in markets with a linear order. At Borough Market and Brixton Market, the material actors (in these cases referring to permanent structures such as walls, platforms, roof-structures, etc.) are more varied and the spatial differentiation is higher. This suggests that those markets are open for more diverse actions and uses. There are exceptions however;

in some parts of Portobello Road and Petticoat Lane the spatial and ma-terial variety is higher, thus providing an increased potential for territorial complexity. The exceptions are normally related to material interventions or particularities that challenge the linear structure, such as traffic-related artefacts and open spaces that are directly linked to the street spaces.

The Borough Market site (figure 42, p.136) contains a vast array of spatial situations that vary in size, geometry, topography, social intensity, etc. The general pace is slow compared to the pace of a linearly ordered

street market. The Borough Market (see aerial view above [42]) offers many places to stop, rest, gather, eat or drink in outdoor public situations. A diversity of mobile and fixed urban- and market related artefacts make up these places: benches, low walls, building socles, roofed arcades, market stalls, litterbins, lamp posts, utility boxes, etc. The territorial productions are varied and the territories overlap spatially as well as temporally; conse-quently, the territorial complexity is often high.

At Brixton Market, a mix of street markets and indoor markets revolve around the elevated railroad and the Brixton tube station. The different market types are well connected but not overlapping; thus the assemblage of markets can be categorised as an example of the composite order. From a territorial and spatial point of view, Brixton Market is a varied and differ-entiated area, but the complexity is generally not as high as in the Borough Market. Each Brixton market type has its own informal rules and policies.

Since their atmosphere and the merchandise that they offer differ signifi-cantly, they most probably attract partly different visitors. The overall im-pression is that they are highly dependent on their local contexts, regard-ing their individual capacities to trigger social exchange between strangers and to produce territorial complexity.

In consistency with the logic of the street as a canal for transportation, Portobello Road Market and Petticoat Lane Market are clearly directed






spaces, and accordingly, people often move at a higher pace. The single ordered street market type is territorially more homogeneous and offers fewer places to stop, gather or consume takeaway items in outdoor situa-tions. At Portobello Road in particular, one is compelled to use the more permanent, commercial venues such as cafés, pubs or restaurants for these activities. The material figures and spatial differentiation is not as elaborat-ed and diversifielaborat-ed as in the Borough Market or as complex as in Brixton Market; consequently, the spatial variety and territorial complexity is not as high.

Selected Artefact Observations

In the following, I will present a series of material figures and describe how they affect the social life in the open-air markets. The selection of artefacts included here are those that stood out as particularly vibrant during the field studies. They are introduced here to provide a kind of panorama of the different ways in which material artefacts seem to influence social ex-changes in the market sites. This panorama of observed – and apparently incentive – artefacts will then be followed by a few, more elaborated, mi-cro-studies from the southern edge of the Borough Market.

Market Platforms

Here, platforms imply horizontal artefacts that are slightly raised from the surrounding ground. They can be accessed normally and thus become en-tangled in human/material networks. The change of level detaches the plat-form and protects the space from potentially disturbing nearby activities.

A platform can take on different actor roles in various networks, afford-ing opportunities for sittafford-ing, playafford-ing and performafford-ing, for example. When takeaway is involved, they easily become places for eating and drinking.

They can also act as refuges in congested spaces and legitimise people’s lin-gering, for example in a market space, without consuming anything. Plat-forms can produce fairly stable and specialised territories in the midst of other territorial productions that typically relate to market functions and/

or to a general traffic situation. Due to the public sharing of activities and events that are performed on and near platforms, they constitute poten-tial triggers for social exchange. This recurrently implies superimpositions of different activities and hence the production of territorial complexity.

Platforms often represent local spatial exceptions, where the regular social culture is temporarily destabilised – islands of normative exceptions, if you like (cf. Amin 2002).

A traffic island in Petticoat Lane Market (photographs 43, 44) attracts visitors for a short rest or to consume takeaway food. The traffic island is

positioned in the middle of the busy market street and offers people a sort of protection from behind, a place from which they can peacefully observe the intense commercial life. On one occasion I observed an elderly man resting on the traffic island while two women associated with him com-pleted their shopping along the street. The women repeatedly returned to the man, leaving the things they had bought with him for safekeeping be-fore continuing their shopping. At the same time, a family with three chil-dren stopped for a rest and to eat ice cream. The youngest kids sat safely in the middle of the platform, naturally protected from the busy street by the people sitting along the edges, as if by an organic fence. After finishing their ice cream, the children played on the platform while their parents took a rest on the edge. During the same observation, people came and went from the platform, some for short rests and others to stay for some time. The form, the size and height of the traffic island strongly affect the use of it. The height affords sitting and the precise shape of the edge makes it possible even for small children to climb up on it. The convex form al-lows for sitting visually directed towards the anonymous public activities and thus makes the platform socially easy to access, since one is not con-nected to the other people using it by eye contact. The depth of the artefact allows children to play fairly safely in its centre and it can protect things that one wants to put away safely. This is possible without disturbing the functionality of the island as a refuge for short rests at its edges. The utterly mundane artefact offers a great variety of uses and encourages prolonged stops at the site and thus an increased potential for social exchange, yet without requiring it. The architecture of the traffic island offers alternative choices regarding social interaction.

Another traffic island, in a crossing at Portobello Road Market (pho-tographs 45, 46), is appropriated by a man playing steel pan while leaning

43 44

on a bollard, by an iron fence. He is protected from cars and other vehicles by the slightly elevated ground and by the iron fence. The steel pan player is perfectly positioned in the middle of the flow of market visitors, without disturbing the market stalls or obstructing the flow of people. His activity produces a sound territory, overlapping with the sound territories of the market and the motorised traffic. The steel pan musician obstructs people with his visual presence and by his production of sound, causing exchange with people and between people who are passing by. On another occasion, the same spot was occupied by a bass player intensely performing emphatic rockabilly songs. His presence affirms a repetitive and specific use of the place; a use that I suggest is evidently related to its form and materiality.

Right outside a store in the southern part of the Portobello Road Market, a section of the pavement is raised like a platform (photographs 47, 48). Peo-ple stop, step up on the platform and get an overview of the often-crowded space. One day, some people on the platform take notice of two street per-formers on the other side of the street and use the pavement platform as a stand for watching the performances. They overhear each other’s comments on the artists’ skill (or lack of), they exchange and share an urban activity

45 46

47 48

51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 49 50

with others. The particularity of the place reinforces the feeling of temporal community with others who are using the platform the same way. It is un-likely that the street performers’ position is accidental; rather, I would argue that they are prompted by the architecture of the place and its affordances.


Bollards’ main purpose is to separate different activities in urban spaces, typically motorised traffic from pedestrians. The bollards are the materi-al remateri-alisation of a subtle, permeable border that materi-allows overlapping and multiple uses. As artefacts, however, they inspire to multiple activities in themselves, such as sitting (photographs 50, 52, 61) and leaning (photo-graphs 51, 53), supporting a bag or a plate with food (photograph 49).

Sometimes a bollard can be used as a supporting leg for a market table (photograph 57). As urban furniture they prompt people to gather (pho-tograph 60), and together with takeaway foods they may become places for eating and drinking. People also tend to use them as spatial markers, or anchors, for clustering or for organising garbage, bicycles and other objects (photographs 54-56, 58, 59, 80). All of these affordances reveal bollards’

role as active mediators of social exchange – frequently linking humans and nonhumans in different sorts of networks.

At Brixton Station Road street market, some bollards are organised three by three in a triangular arrangement, attracting other artefacts, such as litterbins, pavement signs, café tables and chairs; consequently the ex-tended bollard-clusters attract humans. According to these observations and others made in the field studies, bollards appear to constitute multi-functional urban fixtures that afford much more than they were originally intended to; they prompt certain behaviours and encourage entanglement with humans as well as between humans.

60 61

Socles and Low Walls

The footpath between the Southwark Cathedral and one of the market spaces at Borough Market is demarcated by a wall/fence on one side and an edge of slightly raised kerbstones on the other (photographs 67, 68).

During lunchtime and in the afternoons, both sides of the path are used for sitting and leaning, predominantly by people eating or drinking take-away from the market. At lunchtime the sunken space southwest of the cathedral fills up with hungry people and their takeaway lunches (photo-graphs 62, 63). Mobile furniture is arranged, composing different clusters of visitors, sometimes in groups around a table and sometimes in direct re-lation to people using the stone retaining walls, which also provide sitting and leaning opportunities. On several occasions I observed school classes having lunch here, seemingly as part of excursions including a visit to the cathedral. Occasionally, people also use the socles of the Jubilee Market structure (a part of Borough Market) as seats (photographs 64, 66).

Building socles and low walls are similar to platforms – like the traffic islands described above – and thus form part of the urban public land-scape. Building socles and other architectural features, potentially due for public use, are often primarily considered parts of (private) buildings.

64 65 66 62 63

In document Clustering Architectures: The Role of Materialities for Emerging Collectives in the Public Domain Magnusson, Jesper (Page 132-147)