Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Architecture of the Bazaar

The Bazaar in India is not always a market building. One could say that the Bazaar is not always architecture. However, there have been market buildings which became the starting point in many Indian cities for an entire urban precinct which served as a marketplace.

In India, many of the Market buildings were built by the British before independence. There is the in Bangalore, the Crawford market in Mumbai, the Devaraja market in Mysore, the Connemara market in Trivandrum or the Kurupam market in Visakhapatnam. These are buildings that hold value even today since they are both architectural heritage - telling a story of the indigenous skills of the artisans and also urban heritage - holding within them signs and memories of how the city has grown. There are two earlier posts that discuss this aspect of the Bazaar: The Marketplace as Urban heritage - the Devaraja market in Mysore and Urban Structure - City market and Russell market

Devaraja market in Mysore (from the inside)

If one were to look at examples outside of India, there are some historic market buildings that are even today thriving marketplaces. I've written earlier about the Grand Central Terminal market in New York city, that opened to the public in February 1913, almost exactly a hundred years before and is today a place for gourmet food. The Faneuil Hall market in Boston was built in 1742 and is today a place for tourists while it still serves the local population. Both of these market buildings were constructed in response to the increase in traders bringing their produce into town and the need for a formal place for the exchange of goods. Several of the historic markets in Europe have survived and as Meena Venkataraman points out in her post on Exploring Borough market, in order to survive change, markets have had to adapt, assimilate and to evolve.

In Architecture schools in India, Market architecture is not a subject or even a topic that is studied or discussed, just as vernacular domestic architecture is not studied. In the State of Andhra Pradesh alone, there are 23 districts each with its own vernacular architecture but we do not study it. It is often said that a bazaar grows organically, it cannot be designed and therefore cannot be a concern for architects. Can this be true?

There is also the term Built environment which is more expansive. Built environment includes all the structures people have built when considered as separate from the natural environment. The phrase acknowledges that the majority of urban environments already exist, that a small fraction of buildings constructed annually, even in the industrialized world, are designed by architects (Ref: Wikipedia).  So, can a Bazaar be termed as a Built-environment, if it is not a building? The Mulji Jetha market in Mumbai is an unusual bazaar, it can be termed either a 'building' or a 'built-environment'. If one looks at the plan of the bazaar, one finds that it occupies several streets within the dense south mumbai urban fabric and yet it is a roofed bazaar.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (2008), the Bazaar was originally a public market district of a Persian town. From Persia, the term spread to Arabia, Turkey and North Africa. In Turkish, it was the Pazar. In India, it came to be applied to a single shop, and currently implies a street lined with shops or a fair at which a variety of goods are sold. In an Arab city, a commercial quarter was termed as the Souq . Historically, Souqs were held outside of cities in the location where a caravan loaded with goods would stop and merchants would display their goods for sale. Later, due to the importance of the marketplace and the growth of cities, the locations of souqs shifted to urban centers (Ref: Wikipedia).

Krishna Raja (K.R.) market in Bangalore

A Bazaar is often an organically developed series of shops that eventually become an urban space that is termed as the Bazaar. The planning of this space does not take place formally in the offices of the City Planning departments in India. According to the National Association of Street Vendors in India (NASVI), vendors of fruits and vegetables have never been allocated space in the city in a pre-planned manner.

However, the morning market or the weekly markets have always existed in India, in South Asia and in the Middle Eastern countries. Today, there is a threat to the Periodic bazaar as land prices in the inner city escalate making both the traditional street bazaar and the historic market building of less economical value though their cultural and social value remain the same. In their paper Rendering Istanbul's Periodic Bazaars Invisible: Reflections on Urban Transformation and Contested Space, Ozlem Oz and Mine Eder explain that there have been repeated cases where the municipality has persuaded a resident to file a lawsuit against the people of the bazaar on grounds of noise and pollution to facilitate its relocation, so that land can be made available to a developer for constructing a mall or to be rented out as a car park.

In India, markets are initially neglected by the Municipalities who own these buildings and when they became dilapidated structures, it is suggested by the government that the vendors be relocated so that the building can be demolished in order to be replaced by a mall. There is an ongoing conflict between the Vendors and the Government in Bangalore which I discuss in The Riddle of Russell market.

We need to ask ourselves the question: Why were these markets built? At what time in the city's history did they come  in? What is changing now? Are these markets redundant for the new times we are living in?

Kurupam market in Visakhapatnam

According to INTACH vizag, the Kurupam market was built so that the revenue generated from the shops leased to merchants could be used to provide medical facilities to the poor of the city. The Russell market building was built in 1927 when the Municipal Commissioner T.B.Russell initiated its construction when he found that the existing informal market in the Cantonment area was insufficient for the growing needs of this neighbourhood. In Bombay, the Crawford market was built as a wholesale market for fruits and vegetables in 1869. It was designed by the British architect William Emerson. In 1996, the wholesale traders were relocated to Navi Mumbai when it was decided that this change would reduce the traffic congestion particularly with the goods entering the city by road through its north end and having to traverse the length of the linear city to reach Crawford market at its south end.

In both the Russell market and the Crawford market, the British seemed to have recognised the functional need of an Indian marketplace and planned large open spaces within the layout of the market building, where merchants could unload their goods, sort them out and display them for their customers, where the open space behind the ornate fa├žade allowed a flexibility of operations similar to a Street bazaar or a Market square. If we were to generate an architectural typology for the Indian bazaar, this aspect of the colonial market buildings in India would be one of the key lessons to learn from.

Besides, we would need to observe closely the hundreds and thousands of street bazaars in our towns and cities to know how a market works and how it looks, because we have no repetition in our bazaar layouts, each one has its own character and its own order. What designer would not find that challenging enough to study?


radha said...

Most of the old market places that were designed have been demolished for real estate , since they are now in prime areas . Abroad, they take their market areas/ high streets into all their planning. There are grants and the Council takes decisions on how to improve pedestrian areas, pavements, shop fronts. So much thought goes into these aspects. Unfortunately, this does not happen in our country in most places. Even the Khan Market in New Delhi that is such an upmarket area can do with a lot of new ideas.

Indian Bazaars said...

Radha, thanks so much for your comment. It made me rethink and rework the post.

joshi daniel said...

markets shows culture.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. Your posts are always interesting and also leave thoughts to ponder on.

I am astounded by the number of points you've raised.

Thank you, again.

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