Monday, September 14, 2009


This semester and last, I gave my students an assignment I call “Open City Spaces.” The point of the assignment is to get students out and about, qualitatively evaluating public space in a way they might not be used to. Like most good assignments, it's interesting to students and professor alike: they walk away with a better understanding of the Open City, and I walk away with a larger inventory of interesting spaces.

One of the spaces that is routinely nominated is Downtown Baltimore's gritty (in a good way) Lexington Market. Lexington Market is the largest running market in the world. It has occupied its current site—at the intersection of Paca and Lexington Streets—since 1782.

That it is so often nominated is a testament to how smart my students are, since it is the same space that I would nominate. In any case, this semester, we decided to take a class field trip to the Lexington Market. What's open about it? There's the market itself, but then there is what's on its perimeter: a variety of shops, bus stops, homeless shelters, street vendors, drug dealers, offices, parking garages serving the inner harbor, Camden Yards, and the CBD: the diversity of programs is incredible. The market's food and programs (concerts, mostly) make the market a destination in itself, but the market is also a crossroads, generating an overlap of publics that rivals even New York’s Union Square for sheer diversity. A true Jacobsian / Whyte-ian dream of urbanity if ever there was one.

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