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Pepper Place Market
Architect Magazine
Washington, DC, USA
Media, Architecture, Interior Design
Madeleine D'Angelo
Date Published: 
Retail, Market, Food and Beverage, Birmingham, Alabama, Project Profile
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2020-12-25 18:24:21
2020-12-25 18:26:24
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MASS Design Group
MASS Design Group

When Pepper Place Market started, it was a handful of stands with the goal of supporting family farms gathered in a parking lot in Birmingham, Ala.’s Lakeview District. Two decades later, the farmers market has flourished under the care of founder Cathy Sloss Jones; now, a field of tents hosting more than 100 different producers from across Alabama welcomes roughly 10,000 shoppers each week.

As Pepper Place grew, however, Sloss Jones and her team envisioned “what we could do to put a stake in the ground to say ‘this is the home of the farmer’s market,’” she says. The team’s concern is keeping the spirit of the market alive; the last thing they want, she says, is to “move inside and lose the magic of open air and people talking to each other.”

Sloss Jones tapped Boston- and Kigali, Rwanda–based MASS Design Group to spearhead a collaborative design process with the Pepper Place team. The resulting scheme includes a pocket park anchored by an open-air market pavilion, which knits Pepper Place into the city’s existing trail system and catalyzes further business growth in and around Birmingham.

“It’s about the systems that go into a piece of architecture that are social, ecological, and physiological, and having not just a place, but a culture that supports it,” says MASS founding principal and executive director, Michael Murphy. “That’s really what Pepper Place is about.”

The design for the pavilion—which, in its intentional use of local timber, tiles, and other locally sourced building materials, echoes the careful ingredient sourcing of the “slow food” principles that the market espouses—comprises a structure supported by glulam beams made from Alabama timber that span over 100 feet, allowing for an open floor plan that comfortably accommodates 40 vendors and houses a solid core with a shared kitchen and washrooms lined with locally fabricated cast-iron tiles. A gently curved roof clad in metal shingles shelters the interior, and operable glass walls and bi-fold doors create an optional transparent enclosure for winter months.

“Our food culture and our built environment do really important work to make our values as people, communities, societies, and cultures visible, tangible, and material,” says MASS’s design director Caitlin Taylor. Of the hyperlocal approach to the materials selection, she says, “We come to this specific design process from the opinion that we need the slow food movement in architecture.”

Organization Mentioned:
MASS Design Group
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Architecture, Non-profit