Designing Markets for Social Integration
For decades, our society has been increasingly facing an alienation from the production of food and consumer goods in general. Industrialization and mass production allowed higher efficiencies, lower prices and larger quantities while securing a comfortable level of supply for most industrialized countries. Mass consumption in highly specialized supermarkets and department stores has been the consequence and become the norm. Each production and marketing strategy is carefully implemented or quickly adapted according to changing demands. As a consequence, today, a growing number of consumers appear to desire goods that are produced locally, sustainably or organically. And the industry has equally diversified its branding strategies. Terms such as green, organic, sustainable and local have become important adjectives for marketing campaigns, often disguising and ridiculing the actual origin of a product. As green is going mainstream it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between packaging and product.
Consequently, authenticity and specificity have become rare goods for those new consumers in search for a more special and refined product. They are becoming increasingly interested in the origin of their purchased goods. The producer has become part of their decision process. In many cities the rather old-fashioned concept of a weekly market has turned into a newly branded farmer’s market. It is the stories these local producers tell and the authentic image they personify that add to the purchasing experience and (better) conscience of their customers. While for the majority of consumers the price of a good still seems to outweigh its quality, there is a new tendency of local small-scale producers to capitalize on their limited capacity and regional uniqueness. They have created their own niche markets for specific and more unique goods.
We asked students to imagine flexible commercial spaces where producers and consumers engage with each other to form a revitalized kind of market place: a SUPER MERCATO. Students translated the analogy of a market hall with mixed uses for the village of San Patrignano into newly conceived spaces for the production, presentation and purchase of goods. Analyses on site and of exemplary communities allowed students to develop first arguments for the scale and type of their potential project. Each student developed an initial concept for a community-oriented building intervention. Once the specific site and approach was determined, students further developed their individual projects to an appropriate level of detail. The rural context of the Emilia-Romagna province and the village culture of San Patrignano acted as immediate sources of inspiration and points of reference.
The studio framed an understanding of the forces enabling the production of goods within communities and the potential behaviors, requirements and practices of its residents. It encouraged the development of a critical position on the potential role of the architect to mediate a design process within a broader social, political and economic discourse.