‘High Street of Exchanges’ is a room in The Garden of Privatised Delights designed by social enterprise practice Studio Polpo.
Could the high street become a place of diverse social exchange?
This room invites you to imagine the high street as an infrastructure of mutuality, care and civic action.
An interactive ATM draws attention to non-commercial transactions already present in the shops, backrooms, thresholds, cafés and pavements. Meanwhile, fragments of high streets in Sheffield (a city in South Yorkshire, England) – a hairdressers, a library, a pay-as-you-feel café – offer insights into social activities and interactions that exist beyond the commercial. These exchanges form the starting point for a series of spatial propositions for community-led developments within high streets across the UK.
The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities, making visible a crisis in care. However, it has also led to communities self-organising to provide mutual aid on their local high streets. With declining wages and the domination of retail by multinationals that contribute little to local economies, social enterprise practice Studio Polpo argue that the current simplistic model for the high street is socially and economically unsustainable.
Through their room, they seek to highlight the crucial role the high street can play in cities and towns across the UK, beyond shopping and consuming.