In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, making a trip to the grocery store has become a stressful experience for many people around the world. To help minimize risk, Rotterdam-based design studio Shift architecture urbanism has developed self-initiated designs for hyper-local micro markets to make shopping for food faster, safer and more accessible. Designed with a 16-square grid and three market stalls, the open-air proposal emphasizes flexibility and mobility as well as social distancing.

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rendering of open-air market with grid layout

The traditional open-air fresh produce markets have long been an important part of the Netherlands. However, their existence and the livelihoods of some fresh produce vendors have been threatened during the coronavirus outbreak; while some of the large weekly or semi-weekly street markets have stayed open in some parts of the country, the city of Rotterdam has closed all such markets.

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aerial diagram of small market with a grid layout

While Shift architecture urbanism acknowledges that supermarkets have not been closed and that some people have access to online shopping, it believes that the shutdown of street markets harms vulnerable, lower income groups by forcing them to congregate and shop at more expensive supermarkets. The architects’ hyper-local micro market proposal would preserve access to open-air markets for basic food needs while maintaining social distancing with a one-person-per-cell policy in the market’s 16-square grid setup. Constructed from flexible and mobile units, each market would have one entrance and two exits. To further limit time customers spend in the grid, the three market stalls — each selling a different kind of food, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products or meat — would offer a pre-packaged bundle of goods instead of separate products.

diagram of several stalls and a grid layout for a market

“Shift’s proposal is to keep the vital function of the fresh produce markets fully intact, even strengthening it, while at the same time minimizing its potential role in spreading the virus,” the architects explained. “Its former model of concentration has to be replaced by a model of dispersion, both in space and time. This is done by breaking down the large markets into so-called micro markets that are spread over the city and opening them up for a longer time. Instead of you going to the market, the market is coming to your neighborhood. These hyper-local markets are open at least 5 days a week instead of twice a week to further reduce the concentration of people.”

+ Shift architecture urbanism

Images via Shift architecture urbanism