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LGA’s Stackt Market is Our Public Space of the Year

Clever design and 120 empty shipping containers made an empty patch of land at Front and Bathurst one of our favourite spots in the city

Photography by Industryous Photography

It started as a small idea: a temporary row of shipping container cafés to inhabit the site of a former smelting plant – a city-owned, one-hectare property at Front and Bathurst streets that will likely be converted into a public park in the not-so-distant future. But working with LGA Architectural Partners, Stackt founder Matt Rubinoff determined that his pop-up idea wouldn’t work; the planning and technical requirements were too expensive. So LGA designed something much grander: a mix of retail, food service and public spaces modelled, in part, after Pop Brixton in South London.

Indeed, Stackt Market emerged as a complex of 120 black-painted containers that fill a full city block near Fort York, defining a neighbourhood that’s seen more than 58,000 new residents arrive over the past decade. The finish on the capsules creates a neutral backdrop for retail – and street art – while the volumes shape intimate courtyards and corridors. “Though the scale is small, it feels like a city within itself,” says architect Janna Levitt of LGA. And it took a village to erect this “city,” with design-build company Astound outfitting the interiors, and
 art and design studio Stacklab installing a large shading device, as well
 as benches made of Tyvek, in the public realm. The containers themselves were sourced from Giant Containers, while EllisDon, whose portfolio includes the lauded Transformation AGO project, put it all together.

Stackt prominently features comedy and concerts, including last year’s Wavelength Summer Music & Arts Festival, alongside children’s programming. It’s a gathering place for a neighbourhood that needs it. “In a precinct that is underserved in all sorts of ways, that itself is an act of generosity,” Levitt says. “Stackt provides this rich mixture of experiences you can’t find anywhere else in the area.” The net result makes the public life of downtown richer by thinking outside the box. LGA-AP.COM; STACKTMARKET.COM