Kat de Mel

Convivial Contributions to Urban Discourses:

Investigated through two Food Markets in Elephant and Castle

‘The entrance to Mercato Metropolitano is neatly wedged in the gap of two brick buildings and declared with a fairly modest overhead sign. With the gate pushed open to the left there is plenty of space for a wide entrance, and after a quick look-over by security, I’m bustling through the makeshift alleyway of outdoor booths and seating in no time at all.’

The above account is a snippet of the Lived Experience conceptualization for the market Mercato Metropolitan in Elephant and Castle, which is investigated in search of convivial actions.

The UK is no stranger to acts of nativism, nor has this trend been decreasing over the last few decades (IBID). For many scholars’ conviviality is seen as opposing actions of nativism, as it encourages the exchange of diversity within a field of respect (Back and Sinha, 2016). As a result, it is important to investigate both within the realm of the city, to understand how they might manifest through architecture. Literature from the likes of Paul Gilroy, Tariq Jazeel, and Doreen Massey will be composed to produce the contextual backbone upon which primary research can be built. Consideration will be given to processes of globalisation, postcolonial melancholia, and commercialisation as they continue to play a role in the shaping of multicultural places, such as London.

Markets in London showcase the ethnic and cultural diversity of the city, with further research suggesting that they improve communications and understanding between diverse groups (Gonzalez, Dawson, 2018). Furthermore, the spatial distribution of London markets flags a clear relationship with areas of deprivation in inner and central London, in which many BAME and lower income populations reside (Dawson, Gonzalez, 2018). Such a discourse is visible within the borough of Southwark, specifically within Elephant and Castle. Resultantly, the borough is also faced with rapid urban transformations, including processes of gentrification and redevelopment. This has placed the area’s large Latin American community in a vulnerable position, where the demographic is exposed to issues of decreasing urban access. To frame this urban discourse, the study looks to find evidence of conviviality within two of the borough’s markets; Mercato Metropolitano and Maldonado Walk. The former is a privately owned, refurbished paper factory, designed to be an indoor ‘street food market’ and so boasts a wide range of international food. The latter comprises several Latin American restaurants and convenience stores situated within a line of railway arches, intended for, and run by local community members.

The analysis of both aims to find the correlation, if any, between conviviality and physical urban changes. Challenging the spatiality of behavioural trends and their reproductions.