Month: December 2012

Urban retail (7) Madrid – b

Gran Vía in Madrid, one of the main retail axis in historical Madrid

Gran Vía in Madrid, one of the main retail axis in historical Madrid

Just some data to try to answer, in Madrid, to the questions raised in the precedent post, based in data from the Statistical Institute of Madrid about:

  • Population (2011 municipal population registry, also known as padrón, by census block data). The census block data geographical subdivision from the same source has also been used.
  • Economic activity points in 2010, and employment in them, by census block
  • GDP, in 2009, by census block.

Data has been analyzed using an open source GIS with functions that allow a vision better adapted to the blog format.


Spatial distribution of the population of the central zone of Madrid, related to the main streets and roads


Spatial distribution of the population of the central zone of Madrid, related to the subway network


Employment in all activity sectors, related to the streets and roads. The employment/ housing ratio is higher in the north. There are high employment concentrations around Gran Via, Barrio de Salamanca, the Castellana axis (mainly AZCA), Ciudad Universitaria (the main Madrid Campus) and around the Barajas Airport


Employment in all activity sectors, related to the subway network


Activity establishments in all activity sectors, related to the street and grid road. There are special concentrations in the old city, Barrio de Salamanca and the Castellana axis


GDP by census block, related to the street and road grid. The highest values are related to the highest employment concentrations.


Concentrations of retail establishments related to the streets and roads grid


Employment in all retail categories, related to the streets and roads grid. Sol/ Gran Vía, Argüelles, Barrio de Salamanca, and Azca, the highest values


Bars, restaurants and hotels, related to the streets and roads grid. The Sol/ Gran Vía/ Huertas area is clearly the most relevant


Employment in bars, restaurants and hotels, related to the streets and roads grid


Municipal markets (green dots) and hipermercados (supermarkets over 2.500 sq m) related to the subway network, overlayed on the concentrations of retail activity. It is clear that the markets cover the central city, while the hipermercados cover the peripheral areas.


Commercial centers related to the subway network, overlayed on the retail concentrations. In the peripheral regions the Commercial centers are closer to the american suburban mall model, and tend to separate from the subway network.

Urban retail (6) Madrid – a

Madrid, as seen from Cerro del Tío Pío

Madrid, as seen from Cerro del Tío Pío

The location of the retail activities in cities can only be understood when you know the logics guiding the citizens. So each city is a special territory, even if some logics can be defined as common to nearly all of them.

Citizens use to get out of their homes every day for several reasons; some get out only to shop, but the most usually have other reasons. As they care for their time, they often are only ready to get out for just one reason when they are going to something that produces a satisfaction or is an obligation (earn money, honor your obligations with others…). Anyway, it is common to see that a same trip is used for more than one purpose.

Walking in Calle de Alcalá

Walking in Calle de Alcalá

Buying things can go from a repetitive daily chore to an exciting experience, and this is not just the result of the shop’s qualities, but also of the stuff they sell. Not only its nature (meat, reading stuff, hardware…) but also its price and quality, or if it is fashionable or not. So, we could define the problem by a combination of:

–          Matters in which the buyer has (at least some degree of) control

  • What to buy and when
  • Where to buy (+1)
  • Get out just for shopping or going to buy along with other trip motivations (+2)
  • Routes buyer follows when moving around the city (+3)
  • How much time to spend in buying the thing (+4)

–          Matters in which the buyer has no control, but which influence his decisions:

  • Features of the sales space (+5)
  • Quality of the salesman
  • Qualities of the product

As an urban planner, in this post I will talk about the items marked with an (+)

(+1) The fact that this is the central issue does not make it less dependent from the rest…

(+2)Usually related to the kind of goods; for special and emotional goods, it is easier to make an exclusive trip, but buying your daily bread and a night meal can be done on the way home from work.

(+3) Daily itineraries are a window on many things offered by the city

(+4) It usually takes longer (and you are prone to go longer distances) to choose a good, special thing

(+5) An attractive shop attracts (as reiterative a sentence as true it is…)

And how do you see all this in a real city, as, for instance, Madrid?

Madrid is an European city with an urban core in which substantial amounts of money have been spent during the last century to allow the access by car or public transportation systems. Each day thousands of people enter the city or move around it to work, study, pay their taxes, take the dog to the veterinary, meet their love, demonstrate… they all see billboards in the underground or the streets, and several shops, of all sizes and kinds, along their routes.

It is relevant to know:

Where people live

Where people work

How they move

Where are the shops, not only as a whole but also by typologies

Urban retail (5) Department stores

The first department stores seem to have appeared in a more or less simultaneous manner in France and Britain at the beginning of the XIXth century, as a way to catter to an urban elite that was growing in purchasing power with the industrial revolution. This context is well described by Emile Zola in “Au bonheur des dames”, a depiction of the inner life of an early department store. In many cases the first department stores began in small buildings and grew in an organical manner colonizing entire blocks, and even adjacent blocks, something that can still be felt today when going through the departments you find odd level changes.


Le Printemps, Paris

In terms of urban impact, the department store means a mighty concentration of sales capacity in an usually small area, located in the most central parts of the city (indeed, contributing to the creation of such centralities or to their demise when they flee), and integrated in the general pedestrian and public transportation system. Even if in America it is common to see such establishments in suburban malls, in Europe (in part due to a certain difficulty in some countries for the format to adapt to new settings) it is still a central city bussiness, and in Japan their link to main rail stations is clear.

Lafayette- berlin

Galleries Lafayette, Berlin

This stacking of shopping areas under a single operator in a much more integrated way than in any mall is also relevant. It means that the image towards the city must be well defined to endure the test of time. The french examples asume that creating large façades that simulate windows (not always visible from the sales floor), but El Corte Inglés, in Spain, has dotted the country with façades that show no visible windows but for small areas. Even in their recent building in Pamplona, by Martinez Lapeña- Torres, with an interesting elevation (albeit compared by some to a cheese grater), just the penthouse cafeteria is clearly visible (and the street level displays, no doubt…).

El Corte Inglés, Pamplona

El Corte Inglés, Pamplona

Lafayette berlin-1

Galleries Lafayette, Berlin

In many examples the idea of scenic building core spaces is relevant, but it is not always the case. Be it domes, iron architecture, glass, a combination of all of or part of the above… in time terms, sometimes these spaces have been fragmented as not to compete for the atention of the shoppers…


Le Printemps, Paris

Urban retail (4) Streets

Kurfürstendam, Berlin; a top retail location with major franchises

Kurfürstendam, Berlin; a top retail location with major franchises

Even if this seems self-evident, it is not always that true when talking about urban planning: the street is a space with its own rules in terms of retail. The pedestrian’s perception (or the perception by motorists) is marked by that logic of motion, and usually the location of shops of different specialities (and therefore, different profit margins) is organised according to the visibility or accesibility provided by each street. On a wide avenue you will have usually higher rents, and higher profit margin shops (apparel, department stores…), while other retailers or services (small restaurants, the showroom of a wholesale textile firm) will be on secondary streets. On urban cores beyond a certain size the retail activities generally organize in “blurbs”, but each kind of store (and each quality range) occupies specific locations, and the street becomes an organizing system.

Republic Street, the main axis in the historical core of La Valleta

Republic Street, the main axis in the historical core of La Valleta

A small convenience shop in a secondary street in La Valleta

A small convenience shop in a secondary street in La Valleta


Urban retail (3) Passages

Pommeraye-B A series of covered passages are developed in Paris during the first half of the XIXth century, creating in fact and by legal conditions a series of private spaces that cut through the center of the city blocks, setting up long glass walls for shops that are covered with glass structures. The idea is developed also in other cities as Brussels, and find one of the best exemples in tems of dimensions in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.

The success of these spaces is clear, and in 1843 the Passage Pommeraye opens in Nantes. It has horizontal parts linked with stairs, as it links two streets with diverging levels (rue Santeuil and rue de la Fosse), with four levels overall, an unusual setupPommeraye-A

Urban retail (2) Arcades

Arcades appear as one of the first devices by which urban retail areas configure a special space. A large part of the streets of the old town of Bologna, in Italy, have arcades, that today are usually a substitute for what would be conventional sidewalks. This allows pedestrians to get protection from the sun, but in winter days snow and ice can resist longer…bologna-3


Arcades being a typological element, they adopt diferent shapes in the Bologna landscape, with diverse constructive solutions, but always maintaining protected paths on which urban retail can be enjoyed.Bologna-1


Old Bologna is almost flat, but what happens with streets on hills?bet1


In the small  Galician city of Betanzos some streets adapt the arcades to the slope towards the river.bet2


bet3Arcades even become a space for restaurants with a view


Biblio (20) Brussels, shops and urban planning


This post is not related to shopping in Brussels, but to the power that the European institutions (identified in this continent as Brussels, as in the US federal issues are refered to as Washington) have to set rules related to everyday issues. If commerce became a federal issue in the US due to the distribution of products from the New York City meatpackers to neighboring states, in Europe since 2006 urban retail has regulations that must take into account the Directive 2006/123/EC (also known as Bolekestein, the name of the bill proponent), on services in the internal market.

Leaving aside all the ironic considerations that come from reading at the end of 2012 the grandiloquent statements in the first considerations paragraph, seeking to forge a more fluid internal market for the 27 states of the Union, the Directive addresses urban planning issues by establishing that:

  • (article 9)access to a service activity shall not be subject to an authorization scheme, unless there are overriding reasons relating to the public interest. Initial paragraph 40 recognizes among these reasons environment and urban environment, including town and country planning.
  • (article 14) access to a service activity shall not be restricted due to an economic test subject to the proof of an economic need or market demand, an assessment of the potential or concurrent economic effects of the activity.
  • (article 15) access to a service activity shall not be restricted due to the population or to a minimal distance threshold between providers.

As often in this kind of complex texts resulting from negotiation between antagonic interests, the Directive establishes principles that must be subject to interpretation. The basic rules for urban retail, from Helsinki to Lisbon and from Athens to Dublin, are:

  • Urban planning can define limitations to the location of retail activities when an overriding general interest justifies it. The idea of nuisance, classical in urban planning, is accepted, and it is so possible to define different requirements for different retail formats that have diverging impacts on the environment. Induced traffic, service to populations without car, or CO2 emissions can be valid reasons to limit or foster retail locations.
  • It is impossible to forbid new retail activities due to the eventual effect on the current traditional retail structure.
  • It is impossible to forbid new retail activities due to a perceived saturation of the location; so, from this viewpoint, it is up to concurrence between shops to decide which one will survive.

The Directive modifies substantially the tradition of the French law that limits the big box retail in peripheral locations; its translation to the legislative texts of the states of the Union has been followed in the Spanish case by the translation to regional laws, with diverse outcomes that reflect the ideological views of each government.

In planning terms, urban retail in its traditional form (mixed with housing, offices and a variety of other uses) is not just a “classical image”, it is usually a good way to create living centers in which life, although subject to the problems of a certain degree of crowding, is easier as most things can be found at walking distance. But this must be proved in each case, as plans must serve the citizens.


Urban planning and food (13) Santa Caterina

Santa Caterina1The Santa Caterina market (Barcelona) is a good place to give yourself a treat, be it food-related or architectural. According to a logic close to that of Madrid’s gourmet markets, close to the Cathedral, the Miralles- Tagliabue architecture is a must.

Santa Caterina-4 Santa Caterina-3 Santa Caterina-2

Urban planning and food (12) Markets

A night view of the Mercado de San Miguel

A night view of the Mercado de San Miguel

The city of Madrid has historically had a set of public markets into buildings; up to the 1980s these markets asumed a large part of the fresh food supply to the population, but the increase in car ownership rates and the rise of peripheral big box supermarkets stopped the creation of new markets and set for a decline in their use. But some five years ago the city decided that it would create a new market for the first time in decades as to ensure some variety in the new Ensanche de Vallecas (a vast new growth area in which there were no street level stores), and that it would revive markets through a double strategy: introducing in some of them mid-sized supermarkets that could improve the appeal to consumers and, for the San Miguel and San Antón markets, a refurbishment as gourmet temples (which now have to cope with a crisis that can reduce the demand for such products), in which the concern for local food was not the central issue (altough local products are promoted).

san miguel-3

The Mercado de San Miguel is a building from 1916 with an iron structure, near the Plaza Mayor, which is developed on a single level. There is no large central space, as stalls are arranged along corridors, but the glass façades give a good view from the street of all things yummy to a steady flow of tourists visiting central Madrid.

Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel

The Mercado de San Anton was rebuilt, adopting a quite different approach: it is a multilevel market, with a floor allocated to food sales and the next ones used by theme restaurants around a central multilevel open space. If you visit, some of the most scenic are on the upper terrace, with views (albeit limited) over the Chueca roofs.

The gate to San Antón

The gate to San Antón

San Antón 2

The food sales floor, closed as the photo was taken out of the sales times

The food sales floor, closed as the photo was taken out of the sales times

The restaurants level at San Antón

The restaurants level at San Antón

Urban planning and food (11) Street markets


The open markets system in Paris is based on temporary ocupations of the public rights of way, mainly for food sales. The aim is to provide citizens with a choice of quality fresh food. There are 82 food markets in the city, with three bio markets. The opening times vary, and there are usually several markets open each day. According to studies by the  Institut d’Aménagement et Urbanisme de la Région Ile-de-France, there are more fishmongers and cheese sellers in the open air markets than in  conventional brick and mortar shops, as the products have better sales through this channel.

Markets are managed by firms that have concession contracts for six years terms, assuming the conduct of the business and renting sales positions to sellers, as well as basic services as electricity and water. They pay a right of use of public spaces to the city, as well as a quota to the municipal street cleaning service, an essential item for public hygiene and health.