Street Vendors and Architecture

2 min read

The temporary and inexpensive structures built by marginalized and low-income vendors in the cities of Gilan, while sometimes attractive to social documentary filmmakers and artists in this field, are a clear example of visual chaos and pollution in urban architecture. Look at this unstable wooden ceiling covered with plastic (the most commonly used material in Gilan’s markets) and reinforced with numerous ropes. What causes the construction of these structures to become a natural occurrence? The destruction of adjacent walls? The type of business? Or the prevalent illegal relationships in the underlying layers of city management?

Presenting this issue as a problem requires a solution from the troubled and preoccupied city managers of Gilan, which leads them to three main options, all of which are mistakes: 1. Remove the street vendors forcefully from the streets. 2. Impose taxes on street vendors and legalize any kind of structure by receiving money. 3. Create an ugly, disproportionate, and rigid structure and rent it to street vendors, making the problem even worse! It is clear that none of these decisions simultaneously fulfill the two principles of “the right of street vendors to the city” and “beautiful and functional urban architecture,” and therefore, they are incorrect paths. So what is the solution? In my opinion, the most cost-effective and creative solution is to establish an agile unit with knowledge directly linked to the community, which benefits from both the legal support of city management and is free from bureaucratic and financial limitations of the municipality organization. Something like an experiential and non-commercial architectural studio that also uses facilitation office models. Since most municipalities in Gilan do not have a suitable academic background in such fields nor capable social units, the establishment of such a unit should be done in collaboration with an architecture college and non-governmental organizations. College students and their professors provide the necessary affordable knowledge for this project, and seminars establish an organic and optimal communication among the three stakeholders: university students, local craftsmen, and professors, so that they can achieve a desirable result for everyone (and for the city) without conflicts and common conflicting interests. However, perhaps the most important thing that needs to be monitored in this process is the prevailing mindset in structure design, which should not sacrifice climate, culture, and indigenous approaches for experiential or innovative architecture.

َArvin Ilbeigi