|The Annual International Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence 2023|
[ID:3754] PUBLIC MARKETS: BUILDING COMMUNITY, BUILDING ECONOMY
As students of architecture and economics, the importance of studying the relationship between ‘micros’ and ‘macros’ while giving equal importance to each has been instilled in us. Writing this essay, gave us an opportunity to analyse the details which go into the making of a single distinguished public market and the ‘butterfly effect' that it has on the market as a whole. Hence, we were inspired to learn more and conduct a deeper study to establish a relationship between architecture, economics and its effects on the community.
A conversation with any person, who has experienced India as a tourist or as a native, reveals that they always have an interesting anecdote to narrate about the public markets here. Traditional Markets are the true reflection of what India is: steeped in community, tradition and culture. Even with the rapid proliferation of malls and shopping complexes, the experience of shopping in a traditional market is unparalleled. The decoration, the spirit, the freshness, the colors and the comfortable chaos lure you towards the market and make you experience what it really means to be a part of a thriving community.
Maharashtra is the third largest state of India and one of the more progressive ones. Pune, the cultural capital of Maharashtra is one of the most diverse cities in India. Pune has seen the grandeur of Shivaji Maharaj, the Marathas, the Peshwa dynasties and has faced adversities during the British rule; yet it stands strong, captivating each and every individual, displaying its historical magnificence through structures like Shanivarwada, Agakhan Palace, Jogeshwari temple, and many more. This prestigious city is also the proud host to two of the most unique public markets: The Mahatma Phule Mandai* and the Shree Chatrapati Shivaji Market Yard.
Mahatma Phule Mandai, a humongous 135 years old traditional market stands tall in the heart of Pune, spread over an area of 1.05 acres. The existence of this Mandai formerly known as the “Lord Reay Market” came into being due to the lack of a permanent communal open air weekly market which could cater to the everyday demands of local people. This Gothic structure was constructed by a local contractor and architect Rao Bahaddur Bapuji Kanitkar under the supervision of a British engineer Meliss in 1885. This building has an 80 feet tall octagonal tower with eight wings containing arms which radiate in all directions. If a consumer or visitor comes in the vicinity of Mahatma Phule Mandai, they are immediately attracted by its unique cast iron columns, red colored sloping roof, grey basalt stone wall and wooden structure. The visitor is welcomed by the beautiful colors of antiques, flowers, sweet smells of fresh fruits and traditional food items outside the entrance. They can enter through any of the eight entrances and experience a cool breeze gracing a naturally well-lit space. The visitor has a clear view of all products as the vendors are seated on a 3 to 4 feet tall platform advertising their best produce. Some vendors have been occupying at their elevated stalls or “galay”* as they are called colloquially for generations and their conversations with their regular customer is no different than those of two friends. The fixed spots of shops for specialties like seasonal mangoes, guavas, berries along with the regular vegetables and fruits guarantee easier access to the desired product for the consumers. One of the vendors who has been sitting on his platform with kilos of potatoes and onions told us that he has been at that same spot for several years and has witnessed the change in this market through three generations. He has seen the Mandai as it was in the 1990s, and he sees the Mandai now, as more than just any other market, a heritage building and a landmark that has been well preserved by the PMC(Pune Municipal Corporation). As the Mandai became popular, it became a desired spot for many political and cultural activities. People: old and young used to gather near ‘Ashoka’* and ‘Peepal’ trees besides the statue of Lokmanya Tilak and share their stories and everyday incidents with their social circles. One of the locals Karan Puranik shared his experience saying, "For me, since I’m from Pune, Mandai is really special, the historical essence of the structure is what hit me first, and it is an awe inspiring place. Going to Mandai is like an event where some things are planned and some happen spontaneously, like one goes for buying vegetables and ends up buying clothes from Tulshibaug and having food or breakfast outside. Also, since you get mostly all the food necessary under one roof, it’s like visiting a mall which is more grounded with the culture, the environment and the people, which makes it special.” Not only such regular gatherings but one of the biggest Ganesh festival which is enjoyed by thousands of devotees, is held here and it is one of the very few places that showcases tribal and modern artistry through fairs called as “Art Mandai” on the National Independence and Republic Day, and celebrates the true essence of the nation. This place has also been the witness to many socio-political changes that took place in the last century.
As this place grew, the vendors struggled to fulfill the demands of the people and a new structure, resembling to the original one was built right beside it, in order to reduce the burden of demands on the old building. This was mainly due to the increasing population of Pune. The consumers were initially very hesitant to buy their greens from the “new Mandai” due to the guarantee of quality of the “old Mandai” but eventually the “new Mandai“ gained impetus. However, the scenario is different in the recent times. Due to the availability of space and a more approachable spatial arrangement, new as well as old vendors have settled in this new space; leading the old Mandai to function less efficiently. The old generation sellers still sit there and accrue enough sales from their regular customers and tourists but are facing a hard time attracting new customers. The old Mandai, the new Mandai and the surrounding shops selling everything from flowers to religious worship material has become “The market place” for the people in Pune. It is close to renowned markets like Tulshibaug*, Ravivar Peth*, and is situated in the proximity of prestigious worship places of all communities like Rameshwar temple, Jogeshwari temple, Dagdusheth temple, The Church of Holy name etc.
After a period of time, even the new Mandai faced the problem of overcrowding and the market focus had to be distributed elsewhere, not in any other local weekday market but in a sustainable well constructed structure.
The initiative for a market space outside the “old Pune” with the vision to facilitate to the people from all over the city was put forth by late Annasaheb Magar in the late 1960s. A hillock called “Gultekdi”, in the southern part of Pune was still relatively low in population and less urbanized. Hence a huge, oval shaped market was designed and built there by architect G.L. Khandekar. This place is extended over 4.3 acre area. The place has the statue of pioneer Annasaheb Magar alongside a spacious parking space at the entrance. This market focuses on wholesale trade and has sections for retail of a variety of fruits and vegetables. When visitors or buyers enter the main gate of the “Shree Chatrapati Shivaji Market Yard”, they move through arc-shaped lanes and approach the shop of whichever goods they want to buy. The four concentric structured lanes regulate the vehicles avoiding traffic congestion. The northernmost outer lanes have fruit vendors, the middle ones have vegetable sellers and the southeast part is reserved for onion and potato sellers. The shops are raised on a platform for easier loading and unloading. The entire market has four entry and exit points of 24m wide roads which leave enough space for vehicles and consumers, even after the parking of heavy vehicles along the sides of the roads and facilitates the consumers with access to their desired shops without having to travel through or around the entire premises. The design is done in such a way that one can experience the colorful facades through louvers and typical identifiable signage board of shop names and numbers in a proper sequence. Every vendor gets equal shop space as well as space in front of the shop to display their produce. One of the daily customers of a renowned fruit shop shared, “This place is well-managed. There is no clutter and chaos. Safety and security of goods is insured, and the business runs smoothly without any complications as the controlled design assures free movement of people and vehicles.”
The space has been well assigned and the timings of transactions have been predefined by the APMC(Agricultural Produce Market Committee). The APMC was established to regulate the haphazard structure of agricultural markets and regularize the taxes. There are specific and distinct timings for loading and unloading vegetables and fruits which are followed punctually by vendors, commission agents, guards and officials of the organization. When the transactions of the day come to an end, the cleaning is done by private companies on a contract basis who also take on the responsibility of discarding the waste. The shop owners have also been provided with office and resting spaces above their respective shops. The transactions between the farmers are regulated by commission agents who charge 6% of the sales accrued by the seller. The existence of commission agents have made transactions easy for some while the other merchants or farmers have a problem with the interference of these agents. Whichever the case, both these categories of people agree that the mediation has become necessary. The APMC charges 1.5% as Sales Tax for maintenance. The community in this market is credit based and tightly knit. The sellers know the exact requirement of the consumers and prepare customized packages for convenience. The Ganesh temple at the center of the premises is a resting spot for all the people. The Ganesh Festival here is full of zest and enthusiasm as well.
These two markets are different from other markets as they possess distinct characteristics. The major difference is that they are all-inclusive shopping spaces that deal with a variety of goods. People from the outskirts of Pune also frequently visit Mandai and Market Yard despite having their own markets. Both of these markets have all the facilities in their vicinity, police stations, parking spaces, restaurants, drinking water facilities, bus stand, auto rickshaw stand, upcoming metro station and much more. From increasing access to fresh, healthy food to providing important revenue streams, markets positively impact local businesses, residential neighborhoods and governments. Both these markets are responsible for the economy of Pune, as they generate the amount revenue which cannot be compared to any other retail or wholesale market. Both these places are good practical examples of how perfect competition is exercised in the market mechanism. Some of the sections however, like the pomegranate market in Market Yard showcase the characteristics of pure competition. First degree of price discrimination, which is on the basis of observational personal information, is observed in both the markets. The market forces are pronounced and yet so subtle that the dynamic nature of both these markets seems magical. It is absolutely a feeling of pride when one observes the internal and external economies of scale that have taken place; internal infrastructural development, external expansion and development of space and society has led to the overall success of these markets. This ‘’Spread Effect” has especially been very useful for the women in Mandai and the retailers in Market Yard, as these markets recognized the need of the actual target audience and improvised accordingly.
These markets are connected to the surrounding neighborhood fostering street life and creating a strong sense of space by using architectural design elements that result in a comfortable place and form an integral part of the community. Both the markets are surrounded by other small yet thriving markets of various commodities like grains, pulses, flowers, utensils, and much more. The places around it have also been designed in such a way that they create a sense of belonging which is vital to the success of these public spaces. The efficient running of agricultural markets provides direct and tangible benefits, socially, environmentally and economically. These include the complete utilization of agricultural produce, adding to the community’s economic diversity, providing meaningful employment, supporting businesses, utilizing local resources and adding to the tourism industry. The local markets act as catalysts for urban vitality and economic well-being.
Initially the construction of Market Yard was due to the shortage of space and lack of access to people living away from the center of Pune. Market Yard was dependent on Mandai for its produce and vendors. But now, the tables have turned and Mandai is partially dependent on Market Yard as the latter is wholesale and the former, a retail public market. This did not, in any way, affect the significance of Mandai and its working, its value as a heritage structure or its significance.
In 2015, the conservation was completed of Mandai, a newly registered historical heritage building. Through this, its old charm in the modern times is retained. This was done through repairs, polishing, and night illumination to attract more people.
What has made these specific markets successful is that they have withstood the test of time. They were and continue to be the heart and soul of the community which gave a chance to all people, from all strata of society to interact with each other and form an expansive network, connecting people and places. These markets showcase the formation of an amicable community. The majority of the vendors know their clients’ names and buying habits and the shoppers encounter their friends and acquaintances on a daily basis. There is a familiarity and loyalty between vendors and shoppers, which promotes an ethic of quality products and honest exchange. More than a place to buy and sell food, these public markets have become civic spaces, the common ground where citizens and the government share the values of the community. Both these markets adapted according to the demands of people, they continue to satiate the locals without giving them an opportunity to complain about any kind of shortage, to revitalize themselves, without forgetting their history. As Ksenia Katarzyna Piatkowska's research on economy and architecture aptly states: “Architecture is not only the reflection of the current state but has become an instrument in process yet unexciting – but carefully planned in marketing strategies – economic potential of a space and holding together factor in local communities. The optimum use of space in markets is one of the keys to their success.” This research reveals that in the last half century the “making” has become as important as the “place”. Effective market architecture leads to the visibility of the marketplace resulting into effective marketing. The two markets have done the same. They have turned ordinary garden spaces and open land into something that has brought value to the place. They have provided employment, small scale business opportunities, and a place to socialize, to come together, to celebrate and radiate a sense of being a part of the larger community.
As PPS’s (Project For Public Spaces) Kelly Verel says, “The idea of a marketplace is pretty open to what the talents and interests in a given region are. Food will always be the core, but how you build off of that depends on local needs. For a success story of a market not only the building, but the strengthening of local identity and the potential for markets to serve as economic anchors matter. Through a lighter, quicker, cheaper (LQC) approach, public markets bring healthy food to disadvantaged communities, activate space, and become safe community gathering spaces, providing economic opportunity to local residents.”
These two markets started out as mere roadside exchanges and progressed into communities which are second to none. They have expanded into markets which can accommodate thousands of people with number of stalls scaling upto a thousand. Hence, these public markets can act as an inspiration for the budding public market spaces and give us a reason to believe that they too, will reintegrate into the life of their surroundings and convert derelict neighborhoods into successful communities. As the population and urbanization is increasing in all settlements, especially Pune, the government is focusing on promoting different trade centers with the vision of establishing permanent roots like Mandai and Market yard. For designing the future markets, every architectural, social, political economical, private, governmental, non-governmental establishment should come together and focus on the betterment of the community by working towards sustainable public goals.
Public markets should focus on creating a place which bears the qualities of sociability and spontaneity. People love markets because they love being with other people, they get the opportunity to bond with one another, to have impromptu conversations, and to enjoy shared experiences which will remind them of that specific public space again. If our future markets assure these exact things to the people, which adapt to the site requirements and rebuild a sense of community then the public market will make a place in the hearts of people and bring out the optimum economic value of that place.
(The meanings of the words with asterisks (*) have been included here.)
1) Mandai : A Marathi word for ‘a traditional market’
2) Galay : A small kiosk like structure which contains storage space. (In the case of Mandai, the storage space is provided under the elevated platform)
3) Ashoka : botanical name: Saraca Asoca
4) Tulshibaug: An open air market, famous for indigenous goods in the center of Pune, which has historical importance.
5) Ravivar Peth: a wholesale market for all types of grocery and household items, in the center of Pune.
3) ‘Harvalele Pune’ written by Dr. Avinash Sovani (A Marathi Book)
4) Conservation report of Mahatma Phule Mandai by Kimaya Architects, Pune.
If you would like to contact this author, please send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.