The People’s Market

Apr 10, 2013
  • Article by Online Editor
  • Photography by Steven Vidovic
  • Designer
  • Architect Emerge Studio

This article originally appeared in AR 129: The Price of Building.

The People’s Market is another addition to the growing list of projects built from recycled shipping containers. In this case, the choice seems a logical response to the need for the market to be easily transportable, given it will be moving around Australia. The containers though are also being used for everything from restaurants, retail spaces to art galleries. How difficult did you find it to shoehorn these complex programmatic requirements into the standardised sizes of the shipping containers?

All of the food containers required a servery, preparation bench and storage, so certain types of containers already presented interior limitations within a 5.9 x 2.4 x 2.4m space. The retail containers had to be flexible in their design to accommodate the rotation of retail vendors. As a result, we looked to generate the aesthetic and keep the use of recycled materials to the exterior of the containers. In addition we kept the interiors simple, providing the various vendors with a relatively blank canvas to work with.

The most difficult requirement was the market entry. We wanted to arrange the containers in a way that would enclose the site yet provide entry/ exit points that would frame activity and be inviting to passers-by. In trying to achieve this, we decided to stack the containers and implement the art gallery spaces within them – the lower level galleries acting like a shop window and the upper galleries serving as a walk-through that provides views over the entire market.

Containers are arranged to provide enclosure yet provide entry/exit points, framing activity.


While the individual units of the containers themselves don’t allow much room for internal reorganisation, taken as a whole, the site is quite a complex planning proposition. What are the key considerations in the way the market has been arranged?

By elevating certain areas such as the art gallery, the People’s Garden and bar, we were able to create a tighter sense of regulation and planning. We think the implementation of various levels and the hierarchy it creates has helped in serving the users by allowing for better circulation.

Also of significance was the intention to draw passers-by into the site, as previously mentioned. Our desire for the entry points to frame activity within the site for passers-by meant that we had to consider the activity we wished to highlight. This was a driver behind the positioning of our favourite space – the People’s Garden. Our idea was to raise this area and situate it close to the entry so that it could be seen from the entrance openings and be the first thing to greet you when entering the market.

By elevating the art gallery, the project emphasises a sense of regulation and planning.


AR understands this is your first built work completed as Emerge Studio. What next?

We can’t wait to see what’s next for Emerge Studio and us. Our main interest is in finding unused and/or neglected spaces in Melbourne and giving them a new use and meaning for the city. We most definitely would love to work on more pop-up spaces, retail design, interiors and anything else that comes to us really. So stay tuned!

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