Prototyping for Informal Urban Markets: Methodologies for Understanding and Responding to Livelihood Generation in Public Spaces

Informal urban markets are vital for income generation for marginalized populations, urban-based exchange, and a key link to urban supply chains. There are few tools and methodologies that capture and respond to the dynamics of informal markets. Thus, policy interventions and design upgrades in informal markets often fail as they are designed without stakeholder engagement or consideration for market complexities. This course explores and responds to the need for contextualized methodologies of research and responsive design and policy.


With the demand for inclusive cities and economies resonating, there is a need for urban research and practice to expand on the vehicles for inclusive economic and spatial development of cities. Public space is a key component to economic development and security of livelihoods. Sidewalks, parks, parking lots and other public spaces often become the location of income generation for street vendors, wastepickers and delivery services.


This course seeks to encourage students to envision an alternate public space design that is democratic and responsive to the needs of informal markets. The course involves an exploration of the categorization (informal or formal) of work that takes places in public spaces, methodologies utilized to research that work and the associate physical spaces, and a comparison of case studies of physical interventions into public markets. Through the course, students will develop mechanisms to engage local stakeholders in the process for prototyping the design of physical spaces and amenities.


Students will have an option to continue with work in Durban, South Africa over the summer.