Posts Tagged ‘Capitol Market’

The Capitol Market

Posted: February 15, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Remember when I made my first post back in January and how it was snowing outside my window?  I don’t think it’s stopped since.  Maybe starting a blog about public spaces in the middle of winter wasn’t such great timing.  Then again, who says good public spaces have to be outdoors?  Today we’ll visit the Capitol Market in Charleston, West Virginia. 

It started several years ago as a farmer’s market under the interstate, and during growing and harvest seasons, it still is.  As you can see from the photo below, there is an indoor market, which is actually a renovated train depot filled with shops and food vendors, and a full-service restaurant. 
The Capitol Market, Charleston, WV


But it’s not just the shops that make this a great place, although they certainly are the foundation.  There are also good design principles in play.

First, there’s the scale of the place.  In the design world, scale usually refers to the proportions of space as it relates to the people who use it and to the elements of the place itself.  For example, a café in a civic arena would likely be out of scale and its customers would feel uncomfortable.  At the Capitol Market, the scale feels right.  It’s confined enough to create a cozy, intimate environment, but the high ceilings and ample windows contribute to a feeling of openness. 

Then there’s the arrangement of the shops within the four walls of the old depot.  Notice in the photo below that the shops are staggered opposite each other.  This creates a meandering path of travel which accomplishes two things.  First, it slows you down.  It’s a subconscious thing.  A long, straight stretch of highway will encourage faster speeds.  Curves make you go slower.  At the same time, the staggered layout creates an element of surprise.  Even if you’ve been to the market before, there’s still a little anticipation of what might be beyond the next bend.  In a pedestrian environment, this helps create an enjoyable, casual stroll. 


One more thing.  In the picture below, can you identify another element of good spaces?  Yeah, there are “rooms”.  Not much more than tables and chairs, yet they’ve been placed in a way that give the customers their own little places to sit back, relax, and watch the world (people) go by.

Now to be sure, the space would not be as successful if it were not for the shops, which is why you go there in the first place.  But once you’re there, it’s a great place to escape winter, if only for a while.