OPEN-AIR MARKETS IN
The study of public life in consumption spaces is thus equally a study of private domains.
Architectural designs and other material strategies that constitute ur-ban public space are of great importance not only for the development of an accessible, equal, and inspiring public domain, but also as a political space, where conflicts and differences can be recognised and negotiated. If the most imperative societal dimension of the public domain is its capacity to bring together people from diverse social and cultural contexts and ne-gotiate differences, it seems motivated to further investigate how material, spatial and territorial qualities support social exchange. Hence, a key ob-jective for this study is to deepen the understanding of how material actors and actor-clusters facilitate social practices in public consumption space by exploring how they produce, code, and differentiate temporal networks of human and nonhuman relations.
The architecture of buildings often constitutes the interface between private (commercial) and public domains. Architecture and artefacts have the capacity to bridge different shades of publicness and privateness. Spa-tial order and material form are capable of differentiating social accessi-bility as well as territorial and cultural production. Mobile artefacts can mediate between humans and nonhumans and thus support the formation of relational networks in public as well as in consumption space.
The field study was prepared through studies of maps, internet sites, brochures and books, focusing the contemporary status of open-air kets in London and their genealogy. In cities like London, open-air mar-kets have been a spatial trading concept for centuries and even millen-nia. Some of the field study sites in this chapter have been part of the consumption rhythm for many decades and in some cases centuries. For example, Borough Market has been in its present location since the 13th century and Portobello Road Market was established in the 19th century.
However, the markets have changed over time with regard to the mer-chandise offered and target groups, as has their role as spatial types within a larger urban context. Borough Market, for example, has transformed over the recent decades from a local, rustic and almost obscure market that primarily attracted local citizens, to becoming (at least in part) a cosmo-politan and rather posh inner-city meeting place, offering semi-exclusive dining, eco-shopping and sophisticated market products, such as truffles and high-end cheeses, meats and seafood. Today the market attracts peo-ple from all over London as well as tourists. Some inner city road markets seem to be developing the same way whilst others remain fairly local and mundane, as far as wares and visiting citizens are concerned.
Consumption Space as Public Domain
Cities have transformed from centres for production to centres for special-ised consumption (Glaeser and Gottleib 2006). Spaces of consumption are considered public by most people, even though they are indeed privately owned. Various social activities that usually took place in traditional pub-lic spaces such as squares, plazas, parks and major streets, and in pubpub-lic buildings, can now be observed in shopping malls and in corporate build-ings – so called pseudo-public spaces (Sorkin 1992). Additionally, very few urban spaces are free from any form of private (commercial or corporate) interests. Today we find commercial activity in spaces we formerly regard-ed as non-commercial, such as for example churches, museums, libraries and workplaces (Kärrholm 2012). We can also notice a rapidly increasing selection of food- and retail consumption in railway stations, airports, bus depots and other communication nodes.
As stated elsewhere in this thesis, ‘public space’ is a dubious, multi-lay-ered concept and the common perception of the concept is confused. A conventional notion of public space as being the opposite of private space becomes irrelevant from some perspectives when the borderlines between public and private are vague and frequently overlapping (Crawford 2008;
Sorkin 1992). Public space is not a fixed state of circumstances; it denotes a multitude of different sets of values, interests and powers (Madanipour 2010). Private consumption space has public dimensions, as the Internet also has. Social media is a private/public stage for political discussion, so-cial debate and cultural manifestations, etc. Many traditional public spaces are privatised and/or to a great extent policed and monitored (Wacquant 2009; Harvey 2008). This conceptual confusion calls for the development of new, or additional, perspectives on how we can understand the disputed features of publicness and public domain, as well as the practice of being a public citizen.
The accessibility to traditional open public spaces; i.e. spaces that are usually linked to significant municipal buildings, monuments or churches, can be questioned from a social diversity point of view. These spaces are theoretically accessible to all people at all times, but for some individuals and groups they can be experienced as alienating, unwelcoming or simply unattractive. Thus, public space is rather a subjective and time-space spe-cific situation than a preconceived and fixed Euclidian space. Less signifi-cant (pseudo-) public spaces, such as shopping malls, open-air markets and public transport nodes, seem to attract a more diverse public and may thus may be considered more public from a socio-economic and cultural diver-sity point of view (Kärrholm 2012; Bergman 2003). In this perspective, open-air markets are important as spaces where a great variety of people
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 ); 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.