26 March 2012

Urban Informality - A Railway Market in Thailand

Marketers waiting for the train to pass. (Image source)
The Mae Klong Railway Market is an amazing example of the city as a symbiotic adaptive organism. During my research on informal markets I came across the market in the city of Mae Klong, 70 km outside of Bangkok for the first time. After some research I realised that the videos for the market have been quite successful YouTube hits. But as I could only find entries on travel blogs and travel magazines I decided to pick it up and share it herewith. In case you haven’t seen the videos do check them out below.
Mae Klong Railway Market is known as Talad-Rom-Hoob (dtà-làat rôm hùp ตลาดร่มหุบ) in Thai which translates something like collapsible shady market. The name refers to the distinctiveness of this market: located directly on and next to the railway tracks, once the train arrives the marketers pull back their awnings and umbrellas to let the train pass. Immediately after the train has passed the market gets reconfigured and the sales continue. The only indicators of the spectacle are the train tracks which are then used as the circulation food paths of the market.

The Mae Klong railway passes the market 6 to 8 times a day. It is unclear whether the train tracks were laid out after the longitudinal market was established,  or the other way around: the decision for the location of  the market was taken in advantage of the low frequency of the trains to use the  provided space that the - at other times unused - tracks provide. Either way, what this unique market excavates is a symbiotic adaptive urban phenomenon who developed most probably out of pressure on available land close to the train station, which serves as a transport hub for local connections.
mobile market stalls (via Other Markets)
The rail tracks as footpath (Image source)
The market is a fluid transitory space whose architecture has been adapted to the specific situation. The design of the market stalls and awnings simply follows functional demands and its construction was built up by using everyday and easily found materials. The informal, intuitive approach to architecture by the marketers is impressing and has created a space of event.

A comparable railway market can also be found in Peru: the Juliaca Market. And of course the tourist attraction of Damnoen Saduak floating market should be mentioned here.