The everyday spaces of our lives express and reinforce certain understandings of
different aspects of identity such as race, class, gender, age, etc. The special construct of spaces
tell us, both discreetly and indiscreetly, what types of people and activities are welcome, and
what types are not. Spaces are habitually designed with the purpose of eliciting a certain kind
of behavior from people. By looking at the build environment as well as the everyday practices
of spaces, we can interpret them. This paper will document a “mini-ethnography” of Marshall
street in Syracuse, New York (Winders, 2011). It will look at how the built environment of
Marshall Street, as well as people’s daily practices at this site, produce a consumer space,
exploring the relationship between the built environment and the utilization of the space.
Furthermore, it will examine how these two components encourage consumerism and
discourage non-consumerism. Lastly, this paper will argue the understandings of class that are
embodies in and reinforced through this space (Winders, 2011).
Walking along Marshall Street it is clear from observing both the physical design of the
space and the activity it embodies that this is a space of consumption. There are some very
explicit indicators of the physical layout that target consumption. For instance the street
is plastered with advertisement for consumption from the lampposts to the signs on the
sidewalks. There is advertisement for the Marshall Street businesses on the street on the
sidewalk signs, advertisement for various Syracuse sites such as the local bowling alley on the
streetlight signs, as well as many advertisements for Syracuse University. This is the more
obvious displays of consumption; there are a myriad of more implicit reinforceres of
consumption embedded in the sites physical design such as the wide sidewalk on the side of
the street with the businesses. Just like the interior design of most malls, the wide sidewalks
are a planned to “maximize foot traffic” and in doing so maximize consumption (Winders,
2011). Another way that the design of the space encourages consumption is through parking.
There is parking on Marshall Street directly across from the shops and restaurants. This
adjacent parking makes it easier for consumers to come to the site to shop and eat out. What’s
really interesting about the parking is that there is a parking fee. There are several signs that
read ‘PAY TO PARK’, and meters spaced along the sidewalk. Even parking is a consumer activity
in this space. One particularly interesting feature of Marshall Street is the bank at the corner of
Marshall Street and South Crouse Avenue. While a bank is not strictly a site of consumption it
undoubtedly increase consumption in other businesses on the street. It is very convenient to
have a bank right there with a 24-hour ATM when, for example, you want to go to Starbucks,
but do not want...