Markets with ‘temporary’ stalls are common sight in most of the country. Some Market Squares which open frequently have now fairly rigid and semi-permanent structures to provide shelter to stalls and often the customers. The traditional wheel barrows with a light weight roof can still be seen where opening hours are limited and a swift removal to clear the streets is essential, but this mostly applies to fruit and vegetable like produce.

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There are more and more specialist stalls serving a variety of food, electronic goods and even Barber shops. The frequent rain inevitably creates water pools in fabric roof and canopy structures and the sight of stall holders trying to use poles to push the water puddles often create sudden water falls on or near customers who are used to weave their way as seasoned market users.

I do not know who came up with the idea in Westminster City Council to ask Cedric Price to improve the streetscape and propose design for a flexible market stall in 1987, but it was a brilliant move. This is the kind of project Cedric Price would have welcomed as a real challenge as the end product had to be light-weight, secure, moveable and able to offer a flexible multi-functional combinations of use as well as offering shelter to the owners and the public being served.

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Price came up with a steel framed hinged box on a wheeled structure which was self bracing in any position. The stall offered generous canopies on all four sides and were capable of operating in different combinations and linking with other stall canopies, to offer naturally ventilated covered walking and shopping areas. The taut canopies stopped flapping noises and avoided formation of water pools above walking and serving areas.

The ply panels were fixed to side of steel frame forming a back to the PVC polyester coated fabric in closed position and were also used for counter-tops.

The stalls were able to be folded down locked up and towed away quickly and easily.

Apart from the proto-type shown in AJ it is not known if more of these stalls were ever built and used.

Information and stall photos attributed to an article by Susan Dawson published in AJ 5th September 1996.

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I would like to draw your attention to a fairly low key social housing scheme, designed in mid 60s by Fredrick MacManus & Partners for Westminster City Council. I consider it as an important and successful urban renewal scheme of its time, which was very cleverly slotted in existing 18th century pattern of streets and with out any ‘gimmicks’, got on with the job of providing high density practical housing with  ‘Rossi-like’ dignity.

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I feel intelligent hands of Michael Gold, a member of the design team, are evident in the design process. The underground car parking under the housing and commercial blocks slots in comfortably and appears to work well (although I have no direct proof of this) and fits in the street pattern successfully. To see enlarged plans see this link;

http://www.flickr.com/photos/iqbalaalam/3816822459/

The 6 storey housing rectangular block has a calm private defensible green space in the middle, reflecting other squares in this area. The adjacent triangular block consists of commercial accommodation responding to the street demands.

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It seems a pity that new windows and cladding has undermined the original simplicity of the residential block like umpteen other recent ‘improvements’.

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The diagrams and the following quotation are taken from AD of Sept 1967.

“The building reflects an awareness of its context in its scale and in the way the accommodation has been organized to make a place particular to the dwellings around it. It also contains the implication that it is possible to revalidate areas within the existing street framework, with new buildings which generate active relationship with what exists.”

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