The Richness of the Marketplace

Over the past year, my passport has thickened significantly – from Brasil, Russia, Morocco, Istanbul, China, Korea, Taipei, India, Bhutan, and to our offices in London, Dubai, Moscow, Shanghai, Beijing – along with our 5 US based offices – we’ve been designing retail places all over the world.  During my travels

Over the past year, my passport has thickened significantly – from Brasil, Russia, Morocco, Istanbul, China, Korea, Taipei, India, Bhutan, and to our offices in London, Dubai, Moscow, Shanghai, Beijing – along with our 5 US based offices – we’ve been designing retail places all over the world.  During my travels I am always drawn to the older marketplaces of these cities – many that have existed for centuries.


 
What makes these captivating places so dynamic, so full of energy, discovery and inspiration? What can we learn from these places as we develop new centers of commerce and retail, as we work toward urban revitalization, and as we consider social and economic sustainability?   

 This has become a quest as our work has increasingly provided the opportunity to immerse in many cultures and communities.  The diversity of these places and the richness of the experience is magnetizing in contrast with developments from the past few decades, which feel psychically draining, monotonous and sterile in comparison.   

Grand Bazaar - Istanbul

These places serve as the public living rooms of the community – the best way to experience and connect to the people, the place and their culture. Here are some of the concepts that we are now beginning to incorporate into the design of new developments across the globe.    

Individual human connections   

The people who are selling their goods have a personal connection to the product – creatively displaying the products of their hard work. Many have cultivated or crafted the product, and know every detail of its making and origin – and for the most part, these products are locally made and grown.  

 In many places, the craft and making represent cultural lines reaching back centuries, and the products are created with individual care, meaning, and purpose. It is personal and deeply meaningful to the people – it is a way of life, and there is a great sense of pride in the quality and individuality of the work.  The selling of these goods is the sustenance of life – the crossroads of commerce and passion, economics and culture, sustainability and care.  

Nut Seller - Marrakech Souk

We can create a human centered experience through the way we approach our work – with care and focus on the nature of the human experience, and on the collection of uniquely mixed and curated merchandise – by engaging local small business owners, producers, makers, along with searching out unique product offerings and diverse mixes – not just the same brands in every other development nearby, but a carefully collected mix that will fully engage the surrounding community.  

   

 Local sourcing  

 Local sourcing is one of the fundamental principles of sustainable design, and many consciously aware consumers actively seek locally produced food and goods.  This is a key driver in purchase decisions – initially for food, though influencing a broader view of purchasing habits.  Many of us have taken a pause to re-assess the consumer values of our lifestyle, and are becoming increasingly conscious of our leadership and responsibilities in the global development of consumer culture, and of how the environmental impact of our lifestyle ripples across the planet.  

 

Berber Market - Altlas Mountains, Morocco

We are now locating better sources of locally produced materials for the construction of our projects, saving energy on shipping costs, time, and gaining LEED certification credits in the process.  

 The richness of the sensory experience   

Scents – food, leather, flowers, tobacco, spices.  Colors – brilliant arrays of fruits and vegetables, vibrant patterns and materials in a vast saturated spectrum. Sounds – the calls of the shopkeepers, intimate chatting, musicians, and impromptu gatherings. Textures – woven textiles, hammered and etched metals, smooth pottery, ancient cobblestones.   

    The universal language of the shopping experience  

From the Berber markets in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, and the souks of Marrakech, to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and Chandni Chowk in Delhi, from the Pike Place Market in Seattle to the food markets of central Java – there is a universal language.  From the line of time back to nomadic trade routes and crossroads, to the modern day markets of urban cities – it is the fabric of human life, the celebration of human connections, and the epicenter of human creative spirit – the marketplace.  

In working on the design of retail spaces, we are working to infuse this – the sensorial richness, layered experience, and inspiring memory of the marketplace.