Inspired by Nature, Made with Steel

Common Market Concept Earns First Place in CISC Student Design Competition

BY : James Kwon and Phil Carr-Harris, University of Waterloo

Exploded view of the Common Market canopy system. Temporary/modular elements are in blue, permanent elements are in pink.

Inspired by the protective water shedding properties inherent in trees, the Common Market is a collection of a single steel module that can be arranged as diversely as the neighbouring community requires it to be. The module consists of a ballast-like base and a soaring canopy. It is designed to be easily shipped, erected and modified depending on the desired arrangement of the market. Once the prefabricated base and canopy are constructed, additional elements to the base can support market functions, restaurants, seating areas, exhibition spaces, washrooms and storage.

Three circular base plates inserted along the length of the concrete ballast allow flexibility and freedom in the canopy positions, with new arrangements of canopies able to be premeditated every time the market is reconstructed. A base frame of square hollow structural steel is shop-welded together with additional elements such as retractable legs and modular shelving. This assembly is then mounted on top of and fixed to the concrete ballast.

It is at this point the column that supports the canopy can be erected. Identical custom cast nodes are fixed to the base and top of the column. A tension member spanning between them offers further rigidity to the assembly when wind loads force it further into a state of compression or tension.

The protective canopy itself is fixed to a curved rim of hollow structural steel and is made of upcycled sails for their lightweight and weatherproof characteristics. Once aggregated on-site, the experience of traversing underneath the canopy is akin to that of a forest. The freedom and lightness of these canopies allows it to be understood as a true public space, a natural extension of the city.

Exterior view of the Common Market canopy system.


The Award of Excellence worth $3,000 went to Common Market by James Kwon & Phil Carr-Harris, University of Waterloo working with faculty adviser Terri Meyer Boake.

Watch as James Kwon & Phil Carr-Harris, University of Waterloo accept the award: