Flash Markets

How do we create urban furniture with a collective identity while maximizing flexibility for arrangements and vendors?

As citizens work to take back their urban communities, planning departments have been playing catch- up. Shopping kiosks, parklets, push carts, food trucks, guerilla gardening, yarn bombing, and all manner of tactical urbanism have begun to proliferate urban centers. While often welcomed, this proliferation has begun to breakdown the visual coherence of city districts, edges, nodes and other elements that define identity. In response, planning departments have started embracing tactical urbanism as an instigator for renewing street life as well as attempting to write some rules to retain identity and strengthen what Kevin Lynch termed in 1960 as “The Image of the City.”

In 2011 CUBE was approached by the lease holder of a fruit and flower stand located at the prominent corner of the Old South Meeting House (a National Landmark). We were asked to design a semi- permanent structure that addressed security issues for the market as well as respected the historic nature of the building it sits aside. This led to a larger study of the many such vendors in Boston’s Downtown Crossing district, and invited conversations with the Boston Redevelopment Authority which had been struggling with the loss of a cohesive identity in the district. After speaking with the many food and retail vendor cart owners in the area, we begin to define a modular and moveable kiosk that both held identity in its form and graphics for the city, and allowed vendors to customize and graft onto for their own needs. The kiosks could be presented individually or linked in many configurations to form a full market.