Co-designing a street market with local residents
Chalton Street Market sits between London’s Euston Street and King’s Cross stations – both busy hubs in the midst of intense redevelopment. Over the years, this historic market has become quiet with low foot traffic and few vendors left. Camden Council hoped to work with residents of Somers Town to renew a sense of hope and revival in the area through designing “a market of social value.”
This project use a collaborative design approach. With an emphasis on in-context engagements, our team worked with local residents and members of the Council to research, ideate and design market furniture for Chalton Street. We facilitated research engagements at the market, through setting up a market stall where residents, traders, members of the Council and our team could congregate. In addition, we held open sessions at a local community centre, where market officials from the council and active members of the community could participate in discussions and check-in with progress.
Our first few engagements involved visioning, helping us to build a collective understanding of the current context of the market. Early on, we understood that our designs would involve more than just furniture, in order to create a truly thriving market ecosystem. As the project progressed, engagements turned towards co-designing prototypes, testing ideas and gathering feedback.
“Even if you design something great, if people are scared of it or we think it’s not for us, we won’t use it.” A Somers Town resident
The research showed us that the community of Somers Town wants tangible ways of showing ownership over their neighborhood. We saw that many residents hoped to not only visit this market, but actively participate in its future. We also learned that the process of becoming a market trader is confusing, bureaucratic and involves a lot of upfront costs. It' was discouraging local people from giving it a go.
As far as the designs of the stalls, we learned that many people felt the commonly used stalls were closed off, with an “us” vs. “them” relationship. Whereas, the community imagined a more friendly, open relationship between traders and people attending the market.
Through over a year of collaborative planning, design and implementation, we designed and built three market stalls – accompanied by an on and offline service assisting Camden residents through the process of becoming a market trader. The product-service system is run by the local community centre, where a member of staff has been trained in running the service.
One of the stalls, designed for selling goods, received funding to become a fruit & veg stand – which our research showed was a top priority for residents. An existing trader on Chalton Street and an active participant in the project was hired to run the “People’s Fruit & Veg Stall.”
The additional two stalls were designed for flexible use. Members of the community are able to book the stalls and use them to share information about upcoming events, swap goods, try out a new business or host a gathering.
The stalls are currently in use on Chalton Street Market, bringing fruit, vegetables, events and more to Somers Town residents. Camden Council has plans to apply for funding towards building 15 more shared-use market stalls in order to further develop the service across their Borough.