By Ann Dinthongsai & Jun Zhang
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The Pike Place market in down town Seattle is a rich cultural shopping destination. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Seattle because it offers different cultural, handmade and artisanal foods and gifts, a lot of which are local to Washington. As you walk through the market the smells, sounds, and colors swirl around you in a very active urban environment. Vendors set up their fascinating wares in rows in a long tent that eventually extends outside the tent. Here in the market you will find things you can’t find in your everyday grocery store, and they range from expensive truffles to handmade clothing and crafts.
Aside from the commercial aspect of the market, there are musicians and artists who come to the market to perform. Every few blocks a musician stands, and adds their music to the bustle of the market, setting a moody ambience in the space. They perform to make a living for themselves, freely entertaining the public while subtly asking for donations. Without the musicians the market wouldn’t be the same.
It is people who largely activate the market life, people who come from everywhere to walk through the market and experience the urban culture. The market is predominantly a pedestrian space and is best experienced by busing or biking there. We didn’t see any bike racks walking through the market but we found people chained their bikes onto fences and other objects to secure them.
Another part of the urban environment at the market is that there are privately owned plazas near the market. These plazas put up warning signs to people that trespassing and loitering in the plaza is not allowed. The privately owned plazas are dramatically different from the market, in that they are empty concrete landscapes with geometrically placed planters. These empty hard scape plazas remind us of other aspects of urbanism, and how the private sector largely controls public space.
The Pike Place market is a cultural center of urbanism, where artists, craftsmen, and musicians come together to activate an urban space. The density and nature all these people coming together really define what we think is an urban environment.