community market

2018 National DiscoverDesign Competition:

Define

Everyday, thousands of people hurry in and out of metro stations. Subways and public transportation in general can serve as the only modus operandi for citizens in large metropolitan areas such as Chicago. As a result, there has been a trend in creating community markets near these transport stations to generate a positive impact on the surrounding area. Marshall Square in Chicago is such an area that has experienced issues such as high crime rates and high child obesity rates. Therefore, the goal of this project is to bring a new perspective and conversation into the area that could potentially impact the lives for those generations to come. The high foot traffic and high population density of the surrounding neighborhood already promises large exposure, so the next step will be to create a space that facilitates productive and constructive conversation amongst its residents.

Collect Info

To understand the purpose behind this market space, I first needed to take a look at the community that this market would be built in. The vacant lot under the California station train line is located in Marshall Square, one of two communities in the South Lawndale neighborhood, the other being Little Village. This area has a large Hispanic population as a result of migration patterns in the 1970s, and is now known as "Mexico of the Midwest", celebrating Mexican independence day every September. Around the site there also appears to be a large arts scene. There is an art-deco Marshall Square Theater at Cermak Road and Marshall Boulevard, which was originally a vaudeville venue, later a silent movie theater, and currently a venue for banquets, weddings, and Latin music under the current name of "Apollo's 2000". Ten minutes walking distance from the site is also the OPEN Center for the Arts which is an artistic hub for Marshall Square. One instance being the hosting of Teatro Americano, a theater company for local teens to write and perform stories about their own lives. The largest age range in the area are 25-29 year olds, which helps to explain the prevalence of one-person households in the area, many of whom might still be focusing on their career over creating a family. It would also explain the prevalence of renters, people who either can’t afford to purchase a house or don’t see the need to yet. One specific contributing factor is the low income of the area, with a median of around $37,000. The combined effects of a late millenial age range, single household, and low income means that these people are mostly concerned with stabilizing their life and who don’t have a lot of time or energy to put into getting involved in their own community. Another issue in the area is child obesity, which is at around 32%, almost double the national average, caused by high prices for healthy food, a lack of safe outdoor spaces, and poor eating habits. One of the most employed industries in the area is the food industry, primarily regarding fast food. The cheap prices and easy availability is yet another cause of the high obesity rates, one of the problems I am aiming to combat. Yet another consideration was the weather. Wind is strong, especially with Chicago being next to a lake. Rain and snow would be normal for a midwestern city, so that needed to be considered. Lighting could pose a potential problem since the site is covered by train tracks and there are buildings on both sides, natural sunlight would be slightly more difficult to take advantage of, but it is not impossible. Overall, the site’s main advantage is being situated under a metro station, however the area around the site is quite eclectic, and any issues I found became ones I would try to combat in my design.

Brainstorm Ideas

One of my primary goals was to make sure that the market was organic in its function, able to adapt to whatever was needed for the citizens of the community. To achieve this, I intended to keep the space minimal, providing recreational and commercial spaces that could be used in many different ways. My decision to keep all activities in one building were due to in part size constraints but also because a tighter space would mean a tighter community. Regarding rooms, I chose to keep them as minimal as possible, both in quantity and design. My first room would be a meeting space, similar to a town hall style room, where people could meet, talk, and mingle. There is a lot of sitting space, and there is an elevated area that can serve as a stage. In the markets hot season, the chairs in the room can be taken away to transform the room into another place for vendors, and in off seasons, potlucks and community meetings and performances can take place. The only other designated area I decided to include was a kitchen. The fresh produce supplied by the markets would serve as the proponent for this area. Simply supplying fresh food does not guarantee any change in the community concerning problems such as childhood obesity. Instead, I wanted to take the idea a step further, giving citizens the knowledge for what to do with the food, so that there serves a purpose in buying raw produce. In the kitchen, there could be weekly, even daily, demonstrations of what to do with what is being sold. From fast snacks for a quick meal to an extravaganza for their favorite holiday, a kitchen would serve as the place to tie the market altogether. Beyond rooms, I knew there were at least two other components I wanted to include. One, of course, were the actual market stalls which are necessary to be able to stock vendors. The other was seating space. Akin to a library, I wanted my community market to not only offer the larger meeting space as outlined above, but also more intimate areas where smaller gatherings could take place. These spaces are usable as places to eat, meet with someone, and study. This means that the same space can be used for any age range from teenagers to the elderly, properly reflecting the population and its needs.

Develop Solutions

One thing that soon became apparent after I started fleshing out my design was that the lot was a tight fit and if I wanted to include all of my desired spaces, I would need to add a second floor. This created more seating space and more market spaces, vastly improving the functionality of the building. After adding a second floor, another problem arose. The form of the building became extremely blocky and uniform, so I decided to take another direction with the first floor. I ended up opening the southeast section of the first floor. The result was not only an unique building form, but also an inviting view for passer-bys, ideally piquing their interest and welcoming them in to explore. Another change I saw necessary was the addition of a balcony on the second floor. An idea becoming quickly apparent was that despite the small lot size, it was still important to include outside space for those good weather days and people who enjoy the outdoors better. Citizens of the Marshall Square area are primarily employed in restaurant and retail services, making most of their days spent cooped up inside and under fluorescent lights. When they get home, it’s the same thing. Between these times, if they’re meeting up with someone to talk or if they just want a quiet place, it’s appropriate to offer the option of sitting outside rather than stuck in another building. The seating space on the first floor and the balcony on the second thus became my way of implementing this improvement. Choosing materials also became an important part of creating the atmosphere I wanted for my market. I knew that I was going to include brick because of its heavy prominence in the area and it was important for me to incorporate elements of Marshall Square and Chicago to appeal to the local community. However, only utilizing brick really closed off the community market to the outside world, and so I chose to also include glass. The purpose of the glass is to create transparency. Pedestrians and people passing through the metro station can see exactly what’s going on, and they are welcome to be apart of it. As for the flooring inside my building, I chose to use concrete because of its practicality. It’s cheap and can withstand the heavy foot traffic of the area. It’s organic texture is also in harmony with the rest of the building, following the theme of being man-made but also able to adapt to the use of whatever people need.

Final Design

My final design was an accumulation of all the research and problem solving I had done. The shape from my original sketch remains, but many other features have been added in order to better accommodate the goal of the space. My overarching goal was community engagement. I wanted to create vessels for members in the neighborhood to be able to utilize in order to not only get to know each other, but also come together to talk about problems and solve them. For this I created that big gathering space with a stage that had very town hall esque purposes. For smaller and more intimate gatherings I included plenty of seating space, both inside and out, so that people had places to get to know each other one-on-one. The harmony between large crowds and small groups in my community market is one of those things that could promote continuous dialogue between everyone. One small idea birthed in conversation over coffee could next week become a presentation in front of the entire community. Looking at current demographics, the low income group of 25-29 year olds who live by themselves, they are probably not a group who has really ever had the time or money to constantly run to a market, buy produce, an then put something together every night. This community market is meant to provide a shortcut to that process. Instead of placing a grocery store in a half unmarked building such as those currently in the area, this building is meant to stand out and draw the attention of these people in a way that will make them come in and participate. Other demographics that feature prominently in the area include the single parent and the child. This is a perfect place for them to congregate because they can all meet up with each other and find many of the things they need. Another big issue I saw was the child obesity issue, undoubtedly caused by the lack and high prices of healthy food combined with the easy availability of unhealthy fast food. This is the main goal for the community market, to provide cheap healthy food for those who do not have the option. The produce would ideally be sourced directly from farmers, like a farmer’s market, which serves to bring prices down and foster that transparency between people and what they consume. In an age where information is available at our fingertips through electronics, food should follow the same trend. Of course, just putting raw products in front of people does not guarantee anything, especially if they don’t know what to do with it. The community kitchen is meant to combat this issue. The kitchen is meant to host events that serve as learning tools for members to learn what to do with their raw vegetables. The benefits of a community market have already been analyzed. The organization is meant to also help meet each other and make new friends. The market also has the ability to function throughout the entire year. During the summer season, the entire first floor features an open floor plan where members could sit, shaded by the sun, but also breathing in fresh air, all the while congregating with their friends. In the winter months, the entire second floor is enclosed, and so is the meeting room and the kitchen. My proposal for this community market is meant to be a very liberal approach to community gathering. Almost nothing is set in stone and the direction of where the overall building is going to go is essentially up to the members of the community. The location and what I have included serve to maximize the opportunities for community members to engage with each other, but the ultimate choice is up to themselves.