Urban generator: the street market

“A further characteristic is required for us to speak of a city: the existence of a regular, and not only occasional, exchange of goods in the settlement itself, an exchange which constitutes an essential component of the livelihood and the satisfaction of needs of the settlers, in other words: a market." Max Weber-1922
-German Weihnachtsmarkt: every year in Germany the cities flourish with local markets, where the atmosphere of the village, take people in a dimension of socialization deeper than in other occasions. The public space becomes the place where the expressivity and the emotive aspects of people that filled up it, come out.

-A vucciria, Palermo: the oldest and most popular market in Palermo stands in Piazza Caracciolo and surroundings. It began as a store of meat, once closed by now completely open arches on which the food is exposed in typical stalls on special marble slabs calls "Balate". It represents for the city the liveliest place for the young community.

-Aleppo’s souk: 14 km length with more than 1,550 shops, most family owned, located in a maze of streets in the heart of Old Town, the souk of Aleppo was one of the largest in the world. Dating back to the middle Ages, the market became in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries an obligatory stop for merchants along the main route of spices and silks that from Japan and India, through the Persian Gulf and the valleys of the Ottoman Empire along the Tigris and the Euphrates, arrived on the shores of the Mediterranean.

-wholefoodsmarket.com: is a stakeholder company that works in the whole world whit the local community in order to guarantee a sustainable food trades. It has programs that create economic partnership with people, support schools in providing nutrition education.

*Metronio Market is a modernist work of the Italian architect Morandi of as much historical importance as social. It is not just a market place and socialization, but it is the testimony of a culture. It is an architecture built in 1957, the same year that the 500 was launched, during the economic boom of the 60's in Italy. It is a building which contains different functions such as a garage and the local market and with a compositional language typically Italian, is part of the building fabric of the decades. Modelling of reinforced concrete spiral ramp, recalls the style of Pier Luigi Nervi and his unquestioned ability with reinforced concrete.


We live in an era where the word market is an intangible hallmark of our times. The financial market, the capital market, the global market are changing our lifestyle and our vocabulary. They have transformed our culture but more important they have shaped our cities. Since ancient times, the markets are the essential element of urban spaces and reason for people mobility. The markets have become a feature of opening local communities to the outside, welcoming not only peasants in the countryside, who came to sell their products, but also traders from far away. Together with merchants travel new goods, knowledge, ideas, languages, social practices. The role of people mobility has defined the development of our cities and civilization has developed thanks to itinerant merchants.

During the economic recovery of European society around the year 1000, the revival of trade was an essential element. Several new urban developments have arisen at that time just around the markets and cities were characterized like shopping centres. Venice, Rotterdam, Ankara, thinking about the historical big trade routes, we can count numerous cities, which developed thanks to markets and the role of technology has always worked in the sense of expanding the physical space of the market, separating and moving away from producers, intermediaries, buyers and goods. Already in the seventeenth century, thanks to the development of the techniques of navigation, Venetian, British, Dutch, Portuguese merchants knew where to find and how to buy fabrics, wool, spices, and precious coasts of Africa, India, and South America and sell them in throughout Europe. The advent of the railroad, two centuries later, favoured the widespread development of domestic markets; much perishable goods, which previously could be obtained only in the ports, could now be reached in the most remote places of the various continents.

With the expansion of the markets there was an expansion of cities. 

While cities continue to grow, it has not been developed an urban planning theory adequate to these changes. The greater influence for the urban development was in the middle of the late 20th century the Athens Charter of 1933 produced by CIAM (Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne) and dominated by the ideas of Le Corbusier and Sigfried Giedion suggests the city as a large regional area limited to four functions: work, leisure, transport and the house. The rational separation of the various functions has subsequently proved detrimental to social relationships and therefore, with the exception of the industrial zoning, subsequent generations have attempted to re-aggregate functions that had been separated.

The Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas describes the new type of urbanization as a generic city. At the conclusion of his experience as head of the urban plan of Euralille made ​​during the nineties, Koolhaas has modified his conception of the urban process to the point of believing that there is no individual or institution able to control the design of the city. The sponsors, politicians, managers and technical experts are subjected to changing dynamics. Nomadic lifestyles seems to characterize the urban environment of a society in perpetual motion, which quickly eliminates what it does not need.

In the context of neoliberal globalization, infrastructures and big renewal projects are acclaimed as valid public investment programs and, in general, meet the favour of citizenship. They are presented as the work of an expert group, the expression of governance, and thus perceived as necessary and beneficial.

Currently in Rome, three central markets and related parking (the market Trieste, the market Pinciano, the market Metronio*) risk to be demolished to make room for an unspecified number of rooms for social housing to a private company and without any public competition. But this is the small part of a vast project of investments in the cities.

And despite the community protests, the demolitions will be realised.

The example of Rome can be useful to increase our awareness for public spaces, not only as collective space, but because they are the first step to be a community in the city.
If globalization and localization are complementary and opposite sides of the same phenomenon, especially in the big city, the small public space and in particular local street market become a benchmark for the neighbourhood, where people can bring their families, meet their friends, eat and shop. It assumes an important relevance in the reinforcement of the community, because it becomes the main point of socialization.

This means that even in the era of global online shopping, street markets continue to play a main role for the city and the dwellers. They are places populated not only by economical exchange but also by memories and traditions. They represent the life centre for the neighbourhood and conserve the spirits of the city. In a local market according to certain rituals, there is a mix of social behaviour, such as deference, courtesy, but also honesty, brutality and conflict. Through the filter of social interaction of the exchange, the market is primarily an exchange of words. The local marketplaces, with their every temporal and spatial organization are the lively spaces of the cities, sometimes animating the historical centres and squares, engaged for centuries to activities market place, sometimes filling gaps and empty spaces of the urban fabrics. At the same time public spaces, like street markets represent the first guarantee for cities to have a future community, i.e. a living city.