LEARNING FROM TIANGUIS: Iterating the Informal Market Typology for a More Responsive and Engaging Retail Design

This thesis explores the potential towards a transformative role of informal markets within modern retail environments, contrasting them against the backdrop of both rigid physical retail storefronts and intangible digital platforms. The informal market typology in Mexico, the tianguis, has persevered by adapting and responding to people’s demands despite its various drastic social and political changes throughout Mexico’s history in the span of centuries from the Spanish conquest to the more recent revolution. While more recently, there have been safety concerns about the contextual relevance of the tianguis based on increased crime, newer generation of storeowners in the city are working to enhance social relationships through communities with more contemporary informal strategies that allow for building a more comfortable environment to sell their products.

Central to the analysis is the dichotomy between formal and informal retail structures in the contemporary setting. The thesis details how formal retail spaces, characterized by their rigidity and uniformity, often fail to nurture the social interactions and community bonds that are vital for marketplaces. Conversely, tianguis, with their flexible and community-focused design, not only respond rapidly to the needs and preferences of the local community but also foster strong social and economic resilience.

Through a series of case studies and design prototypes, this thesis aims to design a tianguis prototype that can serve as a model for retail environments that prioritize flexibility, community interaction, and identity. It argues for a reevaluation of retail space design that embraces the iterative principles of informal architecture towards more inclusive, responsive, and social environments. This research contributes to the broader discourse on urban design and retail management by offering insights into how informal market practices can inform and transform modern retail strategies, making them more adaptable to the demands of contemporary urban life and its users.

The examining committee is as follows:

Supervisor: Linda Zhang
Committee member: David Correa
Internal-external reader: Tara Bissett
External: Daniel Abad

The defence examination will take place:
Thursday, May 30, 2024, 2:00 p.m.
In person, Ventin Room ARC2026.
A copy of the thesis is available for perusal in ARC 2106A.