SPACE, FORM, AND SUBCULTURES: THE USE OF A FIELD STUDY METHOD IN ARCHITECTURE (ITALIAN MARKET)
The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between architectural form and subculture.
Despite their intention to design for users, architects are still largely unsuccessful in providing users in different cultures with suitable forms, because either the concept of cultural difference is overlooked, or an effective method to probe it fails to be developed.
The ethnographic field study of James Spradley is the basis for this study. It aims at learning from people's shaping, using, and giving meaning to form. A matrix interrelates data of space and setting with time, actor, activity, goal, and feeling; by behavior observation, interview, and tracing the converted form, and analyses of documents, photos, and maps.
Several meaningful modifications to form were found through this field study of the Italian Market in Philadelphia. The market is located on Ninth Street in an Italian-American community. Pushcart vendors originally converted the street into a trading space by unauthorized occupation. Storekeepers followed interiorization of the sidewalk by installing permanent metal awnings, to protect their goods and selling activities. The ultimately produced an "inside-out" store pattern by removal of all barriers. The patterns survive at present by a collective breaking of the law.
The form of the market differs from designed forms. The vocabulary used by architects becomes an obstacle to grasping forms evolved in people's everyday life. Judgment on form, with the dichotomies of beautiful/ugly, dirty/clean, simple/complex, and ordered/disordered, depends more on cultural interpretation than on the attributes of form itself.
The form of the market has been shaped by the subculture of the market people. It is concluded that designers would benefit from a similar study in the modification of form by the people who use space. The designers should not impose their values on the meaning and use of the form prior to the study. It is urged that architects and the profession of architecture would benefit if, during the programming stage, a cultural field study were conducted.