Commercial Structure

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Commercial Structure


a building, structure, or complex of structures designed for retail and/or small-scale wholesale trade. The term encompasses stores, markets, shopping centers, stalls, arcades, and shops.

Commercial structures formed a part of the cities of antiquity. In Greece, they were arranged in rows along the sides of agoras (Athens, Miletus, Priene), and in the Roman Empire tabernae were located on the ground floors of insulae (Ostia, Rome), along the sides of forums (Caesar’s forum, first century B.C.), and around macella, which were rectangular, peristylar courtyards (Trajan’s forum in Rome, second century A.D.).

During the feudal period, the most important type of European commercial structure was the shop situated in the house of the artisan or trader. In the 15th century, stalls became common, as did separate trading houses for various guilds, containing rows of stalls on the ground floor and storage facilities above. Distinguished for their great originality were the commercial structures of Central Asia. First seen in the 16th century, in Bukhara and Samarkand, they included arcades and structures with cupolas. Striking examples of commercial structures of the period from the late 17th to the early 19th centuries were provided by the Russian gostinye dvory (rectangular commercial structures) and trading stalls.

The second half of the 19th century witnessed a widespread construction of stores, which were built in the ground floors of houses, as well as of enclosed markets and arcades. Here, extensive use was made of metal girders and glass to create a large space lighted from above and free of supporting members (Central Markets in Paris, 1854–70, architect V. Baltard; Galleria Vit-torio Emanuele II in Milan, 1865–77, architect G. Mengoni; and the Upper Market Arcades [now GUM] in Moscow). It was also at this time that department stores first appeared. In contrast to arcades and the gostinye dvory, which consisted of numerous shops and stalls, department stores belonged to a single firm or owner. They took the form of multistory buildings with a central lobby affording access to the various galleries (Bon Marché in Paris, 1868, architect L.-A. Boileau, engineer A.-G. Eiffel; Ma-gasins du Printemps in Paris, 1881–89, architect P. Sédille; and the Miur and Meriliz Department Store [now the Central Department Store] in Moscow).

The first half of the 20th century brought the final transition to department stores with shopping areas occupying entire floors and with the fullest possible use of glass facades (Schocken in Stuttgart, 1926–28, architect E. Mendelsohn; Galeries Nouvelles in Rouen, 1953, architect J. Ferey). Department stores have also been erected with windowless walls (except for the display windows on the ground floor); these structures rely entirely on artificial lighting (Prior in Bratislava, 1968, architect I. Matusek). The 1960’s and 1970’s witnessed intensive construction of department stores, usually single-story buildings covered by long structural components (Supersam store in Warsaw).

Department stores, supermarkets, and specialized stores built in the mid-20th century were frequently linked to transportation facilities (Bull Ring in Birmingham, 1964, architect S. Greenwood) and included in complexes of public buildings in satellite cities, new neighborhood units, and reconstructed old areas (Lijnbaan Shopping Center in Rotterdam). In the 1920’s, as the first reinforced-concrete vaults and shell roofs were introduced, covered markets took on a new look. Today, specialized stores located in apartment houses, which frequently cause inconveniences for the tenants in the floors above, and trading organizations are increasingly being moved to separate premises.

In the USSR, commercial structures are classified as shopping centers, self-service stores (for food and household items), department stores, specialized stores, special-order houses, or covered markets. Among the most notable Soviet commercial structures are the central covered market in Yerevan (1952, architect G. G. Agababian), the Cheremushki Covered Market in Moscow (1964, architect F. Kh. Seletskii), the House of Commerce in Ul’-ianovsk (1966, architect F. Kh. Seletskii), and the stores on Kalinin Prospect in Moscow (1968, architects M. V. Posokhin, I. A. Pokrovskii, and Iu. V. Popov). Mass construction of commercial structures is being carried out, for the most part, using standard design plans.


Predpriiatiia roznichnoi torgovli. Moscow, 1962.
Urbakh, A. I. Krytye rynki. Moscow, 1963.
Urbakh, A. I. Torgovyezdanüa i kompleksy. Moscow, 1974.
Proektirovanie seti predpriiatii torgovo-bytovogo obsluzhivaniia v gorodakh. Moscow, 1975.
Aloi, R. Mercati e negozi. Milan, 1959.
Warenhaus und Einkaufszentrum. Edited by F. Wild and W. Pawlik. Munich, 1972.
Nagel, S., and S. Linke. Bauten des Handels. Düsseldorf, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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