Chapter 5. The design of market buildings and infrastructure

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This chapter discusses the types of fixed elements, such as buildings and infrastructure, that occur in most markets. They are demonstrated by using drawings or illustrations of actual market projects, supplemented with general descriptions of the organization of market buildings, typical materials, structures and servicing arrangements.

General design principles

The overriding consideration in the design of most markets is that the most cost-effective solution should be found However, there are a number of basic design principles that will need to be considered when preparing proposals for market infrastructure These factors include space standards, the choice of materials and structures and the impact of the climate (rainfall, temperature' wind) on design

The use of space in markets

The use of space in markets will vary substantially with the type of function it contains The standards indicated in Chapter 3 (see Box 6) provide a basis for estimating overall space needs However, at the detailed design stage it will be necessary to develop more precise descriptions of the different sections of a market, distinguishing between

There is generally a wide variety in the overall number of stalls, ranging from relatively small suburban street markets with, say, 50 stalls to main urban covered markets with, for example, over 2,000 stalls. A typical distribution of stalls, based on observations in medium-sized covered markets in Bratislava (Slovak Republic) and Kuwait, is shown in Table 5.1. In these cases some 60 to 80 per cent of the stalls are used for fruit and vegetable sales. In contrast, the fruit and vegetable stalls in some urban markets may only represent a small proportion (around 15 30 per cent) of the total number of stalls available. Figure 41 illustrates how a wide range of functions are distributed within the market area of a small rural town and the use of a simple standard fixed stall unit which is appropriate for the sale of a variety of produce.

TABLE 5.1 Main urban retail markets: comparative stall usage

Type of retail activity Mestka Trznica, Bratislava: Shuwaikh retail market, Kuwait
No. of users % total No. of users % total
Fruit & Vegetables stalls 122 80 199 58
Produce promotion stalls 4 3 0 0
Textiles/clothing stalls 10 6 0 0  
Flower stalls 16 11 0 0
Butchers' stalls 0 0 51 15
Fishmongers' stalls 0 0 94 27
Total stalls 152 100 344 100
Retail shops (groceries, etc. ) 55   66  

Source: FAO Project No. TCP/CZE/2253(A) and Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research

A basic issue to resolve in the detailed design of a market will be to determine the number and distribution of sales spaces required and whether these need to be accommodated in open air stalls or within purpose-built market buildings. The facilities needed and affordable by fruit and vegetable sellers, for example, will be much simpler than those of traders with higher-value goods such as clothing who will invariably demand lockup facilities. There has to be a clear relationship between the rent or fees charged and the type of facilities provided.

However, even within one category of goods there may be a wide range of needs in terms of size and amenity standard of sales space. At the simplest level, some sellers may only be trading in a sack of fresh produce (say 25 to 50 kilograms) on any one day. In this case, renting open space on a daily basis to erect a small uncovered trestle table would be the most appropriate solution. Even seemingly quite busy lock-up stalls in covered markets, with an overall stall area of 4 to 12 square metres, are only likely to be selling 100 to 300 kilograms of fruits and vegetables daily. There will also be a need for large stalls in markets, but this is usually very limited (e.g. a specialised trader in grains or dry foods requiring additional space for storage) and can normally be accommodated by designing the stalls in a modular fashion so that a number of stalls can be combined to form a larger unit.

FIGURE 41.Project for a new market, Onitsha, Nigeria

Source: Maxwell Fry, E. and Drew, J. (1956). Tropical Architecture in the Humid zone. B. T. Batsford Ltd. London.

Procedure for determining detailed space requirements in open and covered markets

1. Estimate the total number of sales spaces required based on the projected turnover of the market and the likely range of turnovers (e.g. small, medium or large) and the different uses (i.e. fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, grains, dairy products, clothing, household goods, etc.)
2. Decide, for each different type of user, on the distribution between open and covered spaces based on an assumed (for new markets) or observed (for existing markets ) pattern of use (e.g. 90 per cent open spaces in a weekly rural market, 100 per cent under cover in a central urban market, etc.)
3. Allocate the stalls within the market remembering that stall sizes should be kept as small as possible to minimize rents (normally 2 x 2 metres to 3 x 4 metres, with sales space or table taking up 30-50 per cent of the area)
4. Allocate the circulation space (aisle widths should be in the range of 3.5 to 6 metres and wide enough for ease of pedestrian circulation and so that small delivery trolleys or vehicles can enter the market)
5. Check that there is a maximum length of 12 metres between cross aisles
6. Total the sales and circulation space and check whether it broadly corresponds to the overall area projected for the market (see Chapter 3)
7. Adjust the total requirements to take account of existing facilities
8. Phase the development to take account of immediate urgent requirements and long-term needs
9. Discuss the proposals with traders (if applicable) to ensure their acceptability

A typical procedure that can be followed in determining the distribution of sales space in the design of both open and covered markets is summarised in Box 9. This procedure will broadly be the same for the modification of existing markets except that the existing provision has to be taken into account. If this is adequate then the procedure only needs to be applied to the incremental change (e.g. new facilities required because of population growth). If the existing market is sub-standard it is better to consider its re-design as though it were a new market and then make some allowance for existing facilities. It is strongly recommended that this exercise be undertaken in collaboration with traders.

Even with rural markets it is necessary to determine the number of sellers who will be provided facilities under cover and those who will prefer to sell in the open air or provide their own facility. Figure 42 illustrates a simple village market' located on a sloping site in which the majority of the permanent traders are accommodated in open sheds and a small section of the market is reserved for casual traders

Materials and structure

The choice of materials and construction techniques for markets involves balancing the need for robust and simply maintained structures against the need to minimize expenditure. Additional costs should only be incurred if this can be justified on the basis of the returns obtained from market fees. Other issues that will have a hearing on the choice of materials and structures will include the span of the structures consideration of how a project is to be Implemented (whether contractor built or by means of self-help programmes) and the extent to which standardised components can be used (e.g. prefabricated stalls,).

FIGURE 42 Design for a small rural village market on a sloping site, with covered stalls and room for casual traders against outside walls

Source: Alcock, A. E. S & Richard H. M.(1953). How to plan your village. Longmans Green and ( J., How to Build Series. London.

FIGURE 43 Typical designs for blocks of around 20 fixed stalls in a rural village market, integrating rainwater collection and drainage

Source: Alcock, A. E. S. & Richards, H. M. (1953). How to plan your village
Longmans Green and Co., Ho`` to Build Series. London.

In general, the materials used for market construction are those conventionally adopted for other simple building types such as industrial and farm buildings, i.e. steel or timber roof structures, and roofs and walls clad in profiled steel sheeting with, in some cases, load-bearing walls in concrete blocks or brickwork. The choice of construction technology will depend on a range of factors, including whether indigenous materials are available and what methods of construction might be appropriate. What is appropriate for an urban covered market (e.g. locally produced or imported steel framing and cladding for largespan structures) may be completely inappropriate for remote rural markets in the same country where, for example, only small-span earth brick structures may be possible.

Use of colour in markets

The general appearance of a market is an important issue as it will depend on this feature to attract custom. There is a clear need to choose the colours so that they promote the appeal of the products. In general, paler materials are preferred as they reflect light, providing brighter surroundings, and suggest hygienic conditions. The use of colour will depend on the type of produce being sold and the following colours are usually adopted, particularly for the walls dividing sales outlets:

fruits and vegetables: green, yellow, grey, or orange
fish: blue, turquoise, mauve, or grey-blue
meat and poultry: beige, pink or grey
dairy products: blue, white or beige

Influence of climate

In areas with extreme climatic conditions, such as cold weather, high rainfall and intense sunshine, there are distinct advantages, for both sellers and customers, in constructing enclosed market buildings. Traditionally, such structures are very characteristic of France, Britain and Spain. As was discussed in Chapter 2, many markets were built in the 19th century, but some date back to Mediaeval times. In the 20th century, this building form has been extensively adopted in South-East Asia. For convenience of market operations, single-storey market structures are preferable, but where markets are located in high density urban areas the building may need to be two to three stories high.

In arid climates, and to some extent the tropics, it may be appropriate to use internal open courtyards within market buildings. This provides a way of improving comfort conditions by allowing cross-ventilation. If the courtyard is too enclosed there is probability of it being "dead" and this can be avoided by opening it up to the activities of the building. The spaces can be used as sitting areas, overspill selling spaces or the courtyard can form part of the entry to the building. Many traditional Arab suqs use this type of plan very effectively.

The design of buildings and stalls

There is, in essence, relatively little difference between the organization of a rural market and that of an urban market, or of an open market compared with a covered market. The plan form may be virtually identical i.e. a defined space with limited entrances, with a main walkway and a series of minor walkways or aisles, connected together by cross aisles. The differences arise because of the degree of enclosure, the different intensity of use of the spaces (a rural market would not expect to be used as efficiently as an urban market) and the site-specific circumstances. The latter, which would include factors like the shape and slope of a site, its relation to surrounding land uses and road systems, is often the greatest influence on the shape of the development. The following section highlights the design features of a range of market building types.

FIGURE 44. Layout of small rural market, located around an existing shade tree

Source: Drew. J. R. Maxwell Fry, E. and Ford, H. L. (1947). Village Housing in the Tropics. Lund Humpries, London.Temporary and mobile facilities

For most small-scale rural markets and for urban street and open markets, where the space is also used for different purposes at other times (e.g. as a car park), it is usual for traders to operate using small-scale individual structures. These are normally left up to the individual stallholder to provide. They often take the form of umbrellas' barrows with integral roofs or a simple demountable structure, with a canvas awning or plastic-sheeted roof spanning between a timber, bamboo or steel framework. In these cases, the market stalls are not subject to any design control by the market authority and are the property of the individual stallholders. Alternatively, the market authority might provide standard prefabricated stalls on an individual or group basis, the rent charged for them reflecting the hire of the stall as well as the space. Typical examples of such "temporary" or mobile structures, appropriate for urban and rural street markets. are illustrated in Chanter 6.

FIGURE 45 Plan, elevation and cross-section of roofed stalls with concrete tables for sale of fruit and vegetables - located on a sloping site. Source: Village Markets in Ghana, USAID, 1963.

Rural market buildings and stalls

Fixed stall designs for rural markets can either be accommodated in single-sided buildings ranged along the external wall of a market or in double-sided blocks. With the latter, access can either be from the perimeter or stalls can be approached from a central buyers' walk through the centre of the building. This is particularly important when protection from weather conditions is a major consideration. Figure 43 shows some typical arrangements for rural market buildings.

An ideal arrangement for creating a small-scale rural market is to locate it around an existing shade tree. Figure 44 illustrates an example of such a market, with a shaded open area in the centre for visiting traders and covered stalls provided on the perimeter. The internal arrangement of a small rural market building with open stalls is illustrated in Figure 45. In this instance, traders are provided with fixed concrete tables (see also Figure 83), behind which the produce can be stored under cover.

Rural markets may form part of a comprehensive improvement programme. Figure 46 shows work undertaken in Bangladesh, as part of a nation-wide programme, which includes the provision of open sheds for fruit and vegetable sales, and for meat and fish sales, plus simple infrastructure, such as drainage, paving and water supply.

FIGURE 47 Proposal for hawker's pavements, Bombay, India Source: Cantacuzino, S. editor. (1984). Charles Correa. Mimar Book, Concept Media, Singapore.

Street markets and stalls

Facilities provided for street markets and public squares may adopt a wide range of solutions, One extreme, illustrated in Figure 47, is the provision of facilities for hawkers alongside an existing arcaded roadway. In this case, the raised selling slabs provided for the hawkers are also used as sleeping platforms at night.

A common way that street markets develop is in the gradual roofing over of open spaces. In Italy, for example, this often takes the form of inserting covered market buildings into existing squares or wide streets, as illustrated in Figure 48. A variant on this, common in Britain, has been the roofing-over of streets or open spaces with glazed panels, to form an arcade at the rear of existing shops.

Although mobile stalls are common, these may not be affordable. An alternative is to construct simple fixed roofs over individual stalls or, more economically, over the stalls of two to four vendors, (see Figures 49 and 50). By this means, a traditional street market or market square, as it becomes more intensively used, can evolve into a permanent market facility. Figure 51 illustrates how the provision of new covered stalls, combined with a pedestrianisation and landscaping programme, is able to create a completely new urban environment. In colder climates or where the products being sold are of high value (e.g. flowers) a common method of providing stalls is by using individually operated and fully enclosed lock-up kiosks, which can be either of permanent construction or demountable.

FIGURE 48.Covered market buildings, inserted into an existing 275 metre length street, Crema, Italy

Source: Aloi, R. ( 1959). Mercati e Negozi. Ulrico Hoepli Editore Milano.Permanent facilities: covered market buildings

For permanent markets, a fully or partially enclosed building is the most common form of sales area adopted in both tropical and temperate climates. Covered market buildings can take on a wide range of forms. They can range from a small facility. as shown in Figure 52, to a complex multi-storey building, such as the fully glazed and air conditioned central retail market in Bratislava (Slovak Republic). Such buildings can also provide an opportunity for multi-purpose uses, such as providing space for sports events, cinemas or theatres (see Figure 2).

FIGURE 49 Urban redevelopment scheme with street hawkers' stalls around an entertainment area, Samarinda, East Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Source: Architectural Review, November 1989. Vol CLXXXVI. No. 1113. Architects: Anitio Ismael with P. T. Griyantare and P. T. Triaco 1. street hawkers' stalls 2. shop houses 3. shops

The degree of enclosure of a covered market depends on two factors: the need for climatic control; and security requirements, particularly for storing produce. These two factors will determine the overall circulation system of the market building. In some cases, markets can combine open air stalls with covered facilities, as shown in Figure 53. This example also illustrates the integration of a market with related facilities, such as cool storage rooms, a public bathhouse and a nursery school.

Enclosed or covered market buildings should preferably be thought of as covered-over streets. To encourage people to use the space the market should have highly visible and wide entrances, positioned so that it is possible for the public to immediately grasp how to enter the building. Ideally, the building should also form part of a main public route, making it possible for pedestrians to take short-cuts through the building or to linger without feeling that they must move on.

Although it is important not to create dead-ends within market layouts, many modern markets are laid-out on a monotonous and rigid grid system of aisles. This provides little encouragement for pedestrians to be drawn into the market. To counteract this, the paths or routes which form the market's internal street system should be laid out so that they connect through a series of busy intermediate spaces in which cafes and other public facilities are located.

FIGURE 50 Details of small market stalls (2 x 1 metres) in timber construction, Castries Central Market, St. Lucia. Source: FAO (PFL/RLA/001). Ian Marshall, Architect.

Where maximum air-flow has to be encouraged, this can be provided by constructing a steel or timber-framed, open-sided shed (often referred to ax a "hangar"), with either fixed stalls or pitches for sellers laid out within it. This type of facility often uses a standardized industrial or agricultural building. However, caution should be exercised in choosing standard buildings as they are not specifically designed for market use. Figure 54 illustrates how such a building, originally designed for storage, has had to be modified by the users so that sufficient ventilation and improved access could be obtained.

Within the building the width of aisles should be in the range of 3.5 to 6 metres. The minimum width is based on allowing a group of three people walking together to pass one person standing by a stall, or for two people walking to pass two other people. The 6 metre width of aisle would allow for seating and other uses and is ideal for the main thoroughfare of the market. A conventional arrangement of covered markets (tending to reflect what often also occurs in open street markets) is to have two or three aisles, i.e. with one or two double-sided sets of stalls down the middle of the building and single-sided stalls looking into the market on the perimeter.

FIGURE 51 New covered stalls, the Market Place, Norwich, Norfolk, England Source: Bowne, K. (1965). Norwich Ring and Loop. The Architectural Review, Volume 138, Number 821, July 1965

A reasonable ceiling height for the market building is also needed, and again a range of 3.5 to 6 metres is appropriate, depending on the street width. A higher space over the central space and a lower one at the edges is also very suitable, either by using a pitched roof for a single-storey market or by using an open atrium for a multi-storey building. Within such buildings, it is important to make full provision for fire precautions, adequate means of escape, fire hydrants and the need to divide-up larger spaces into compartments.

Principles of market stall design

The basic module from which the design of any market is based is the individual market stall. Figure 55 shows typical fixed stalls for a covered market, the difference in design in the illustration reflecting the slightly different needs for the sale of fruit as opposed to vegetables. The sale of flowers would need a different arrangement, requiring fully tiered shelving and probably omitting the sales counter, whilst for grains and spices space would be needed for the stacking of sacks at the rear of the stall and for the display of samples of the product in trays at the front of the stall.

Dimensions for a simplified multi-use stall design are also shown in Figure 83 in Chapter 6. This design, particularly appropriate for simple meat and fish stalls, is based on the trader standing behind the stall to serve customers, requiring a clear space behind of around 2 metres for standing and the stacking of boxes. For fruit and vegetable sales it is equally common for the stallholder to stand in front of the stall, in which case, the stall could be flat and the depth may be made deeper (say 1.2 to 1.5 metres) to accommodate a stacked display. Another variant in stall design is for the trader to sit on the stall, in which case the stall would be set at a height of around 450 to 600 mm. above the floor level. The overall dimension of the stall would need to be based on the reach of the trader and a width of 1.8 metres and depth of 1.2 metres are the optimum dimensions. It is essential to consult with the traders on the suitability of the stalls and their dimensions before finalizing the design.

FIGURE 52 Design for a small-scale covered municipal market, Sri Lanka Source: Author

Different stall designs will be required to reflect the different goods being sold - although these variations can be provided within a standard enclosure. Figure 56 illustrates a market where a wide variety of different needs has been accommodated within a small covered market inserted between existing buildings. The stalls around the perimeter of the market are often the most popular with sellers and sometimes are of a different design, e.g lock-up shops.

Most retail markets are likely to include a mixture of sales functions. However, although in covered markets a wide variety of stalls can be accommodated it is also important than the stalls selling similar products are grouped together. This is partly for the convenience of the customers, particularly so prices can easily be compared, but there are other reasons,. One is the need for the sanitary segregation of fresh produce stalls from meat, fish and poultry stalls, particularly so that the area for the latter can be easily cleaned and the disposal of waste controlled.

Another is the requirement for physical segregation of fruit stalls from flower stalls so that the natural ethylene gas produced by the fruits does not damage the flowers.

Meat and fish stalls

Although fresh fruits and vegetables may make up the majority of the food-related stalls, facilities for butchers and fishmongers are also likely to be important. Rarely is a separate building provided and such uses are normally integrated with the main market facilities. However, there can be advantages to providing a separate building so that hygiene standards and cleaning routines can vary from that prevailing in other parts of a market. Figure 57 illustrates a small retail fish market in Algeria, with its own cool stores, where sales are made from a single long counter rather than individual stalls. Where fish are sold live, communal or individual tanks may need to be provided, requiring a nearby water supply and provision for draining down the tanks

Larger traders in meat or fish are likely to require separate premises and Figure 58 shows a section through a fishmonger's stall in a covered market, illustrating the importance of ventilation and of facilities for effectively washing down the stall area. It is equally important from a health point of view that facilities for butchers and fishmongers are concentrated in one location in a market (ideally away from the movement of animals and vehicles). Figures 59 and 6() show a modular design for small butchers' shops, which could either be integrated into the main market building or provided as stand-alone facilities. Note the provision of fly-proof meat safes and hanging rails for meat. The latter is also illustrated in Figure 61, which shows part of a covered market under a single hangar roof - with separate sections for butchers, meat slaughter, fish sales, fish gutting and fruit/vegetable sales.

Poultry and egg marketing

Poultry sections of markets, including areas for the sale of chickens, ducks and geese, have their own unique design requirements. The main distinction will be whether the poultry is sold live or already slaughtered. In the latter case, the sales facility will not be visibly much different from that used for fresh meat or fish, except that using hanging rails for display of the dressed birds will be preferred. For live birds, which have the distinct advantage over pre-killed birds in that they do not have to be disposed of by the end of the working day, there are two basic modes of sale. Firstly, the poultry can be bought live (i.e. for slaughter at home) or it can be slaughtered and plucked (de-feathered) in the market on demand, in which case special slaughter facilities will need to provided, This usually requires a shackle for hanging the birds and hot water for scalding carcasses. In Muslim societies a slaughter slab oriented to Mecca will be needed.

FIGURE 55.Typical fixed fruit and vegetable stall in a covered market

Source: FAO (illustration by Jean-Michel Ambrosino)
A. stall construction in blockwork, brickwork or timber (overall dimensions: frontage 1.5-1.8 metres; depth 1.5-2.5 metres).
B. counter flap to provide access to stall
C. shelves for display of vegetables
D. inclined display for fruits in crates

Provision should be made for condemned carcasses, which are usually incinerated. Evisceration (cutting-up and boning) of the dressed birds should be segregated from that of slaughtering. This is normally done by using shackles, combined with chopping surfaces, in a stall similar to that provided for meat or fish sales. A plentiful supply of clean water is essential for these processes.

In simple rural markets the display of live poultry may be in an open enclosure or by using the baskets in which the birds were transported to market. With urban markets, where space is at a premium, a bank of stacked display cages is normally used, usually three cages high (typically cages are around 0.7 to 0.8 metres high). The wooden-framed, wire-netted crates used for transport from the farm can be utilized for this purpose. In facility design it is important not to over-provide for poultry display, otherwise large sections of a market becomes a storage area for live birds. The potential impact of a developing battery chicken industry and frozen poultry meat sales through supermarkets should also be taken into account. This may limit the long-term need for extensive provision of facilities in markets.

Eggs are sold by grade, typically in baskets, cartons or trays. The eggs are often displayed as samples on a table or bench. As eggs are highly perishable it is essential that the sales area in a market is located in the coolest place, with adequate shade and cross-ventilation.

FIGURE 57 250 mē retail fish market, Sidi-bel-Abbes, Algeria

Source: Aloi, R. (1959). Mercati e Negozi. Ulrico Horpli Editore Milano. 1. administration 2. refrigeration room 3. sales counter


Security and the related issue of overnight storage of unsold produce is a difficult question in market design. With street markets it is obviously unreasonable to expect that goods can be left in the market, although in many cases special lock-up facilities are provided, either for the traders' barrows or for the produce. In fenced-in or covered markets most retailers would obviously prefer to have secure facilities. A simple lockable cupboard under a stall is often sufficient. The next level of complexity are stalls which can be closed off with pull-down shutters. To satisfy major traders some lock-up retail shop units are also often included within the market area, either as separate buildings or integrated into a covered market.

FIGURE 58.Cross-section through typical fish stall in a covered market.

Source: FAO (illustration by Jeun-Michel Ambrosino)

A. insect trap
B. ventilation extract
C. display lighting, mounted sufficiently high to avoid produce damage
D. price board and promotion material
E. cutting table, possibly behind wall separating preparation and sales areas
F. storage bins
G. drainage outlet in floor
H. weighing scales over display area


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