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Reconciling informal and formal trade through architecture : towards a street traders centre in Isipingo, Durban.

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Most third world inner cities commercial streets are characterised by the coexistence of formal western forms of trade and informal trade. Pavements, sanitary lanes and streets have been occupied by informal traders selling items such as fruits, vegetables, clothes, cell phones, bread, meat etc., alongside formal business such as supermarkets, fast food outlets, clothing retail. This phenomenon has created problems associated with contested public spaces. The social problems include street traders accusations for causing proliferation in crime and pressure on sanitation facilities. The business related problems include the clogging of streets by human and motor vehicle traffic. Another major business related problem is the stiff competition for customers that informal traders pose to established formal businesses. The most common policy to vending is to create formal off street market where it is prevented from causing congestion or contaminating elite areas. The research intends to inform the design of a builtform that promotes a potentially fruitful intermingling and coexistence of informal street Vendors and formal Shop owners that do business within the same locality. To achieve this, the research carried out investigations on current literature that dealt with the underlying dynamics of informal and formal trade, matching behavioural patterns of formal and informal trade and a supportive built environment and how these dynamics can influence the design process. The key findings from the literature were tested against precedent and case studies to see their validity in the global and South African context. Qualitative interviews were conducted with a number of professionals and participants in the inner cities commercial landscape that had a better understanding of the trade environments. The research findings lead to a built form that recognises that successful urban spaces derive their qualities from complex sets of interactions between behavioural goals of people and the qualities of the physical environment. Approaches towards creating successful commercial environments for coexistence of formal and informal traders need to establish and support interdependence between the two discrete groups. The built formed to be designed with a certain open-endedness , to be able to absorb the unforeseen activities of city life. The research also outlined a framework that can be applied in the design phase of a street traders centre in Isiphingo Rail, Durban, South Africa.


Masters in Architecture. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College 2017.