Page C1.1 . 09 July 2008                     
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    Great Public Markets

    by Helen Tangires

    The activity of buying and selling food has shaped our cities and towns for centuries, since an urban population by nature depends on others for agricultural production. At the heart of this activity stands the public market — the buildings and spaces in which vegetables, meat, and other commodities intended for human consumption are sold by diverse persons from numerous spaces or stalls, all under a common authority.

    Although a public market need not necessarily be located on public land or owned by a public entity, it has public goals and creates a public space — features that distinguish it from a roadside stand, grocery store, supermarket, or other independently owned food retailing establishment.

    It also has the unique status of being the most enduring, universal form of urban food marketing and distribution — with roots as old as cities themselves.

    Defining the Boundaries of Exchange

    Markets first appeared in history as specifically appointed places of exchange, usually bounded by lakes, rivers, forests, or boundary stones. Such meeting places were neutral territory, or thresholds of exchange, where differing groups gathered peacefully for their mutual benefit. Pillars, posts, crosses, and other landmarks designated these sanctioned places.

    In antiquity, the official marketplace was located in the civic center — a large open square reserved for all public functions.   >>>

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    This article is excerpted from Public Markets by Helen Tangires, a Norton/ Library of Congress Visual Sourcebook, copyright © 2008, with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.



    ArchWeek Image

    The Roman Forum, built from 100 BCE to 300 CE, exemplified the civic centers of ancient Greek and Roman cities.
    Photo: Library of Congress Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    This sandstone market hall in Ross-on-Wye, England, was built in 1660.
    Photo: Library of Congress Extra Large Image


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