The Markthal in Rotterdam stands as a iconic building set in Rotterdam the city that has iconic buildings strewn across it. Trumpeted as a new kind of hybrid typology, apartment block and market hall together it’s actually one of the latest and more interesting attempts at the type.
- Name: Markthal
- Location: Rotterdam
- Architect: MVRDV
- Year: 2014
Markthal has 228 apartments 102 of those are rental. The apartments vary from 80 m² to 300 m², from two to five bedrooms. Below ground are 1200 parking places with 96 food stalls on the market hall level 20 ground and 1st floor shop units mostly bars and cafes. The first basement level has a supermarket.
The apartments curve back over themselves to form an arch containing the market floor. The market is enclosed by a single-glazed cable net glass wall at each end to preserve as much transparency as possible.
The artwork which covers the entirety of the interior arch is called ‘Cornucopia’ by the artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam and has a total surface of 11,000 m² which makes it one of the largest pieces of art in the Netherlands.
There is a rich history of Covered Markets and shopping centres starting perhaps with the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan finished in 1877. In fact that is an arcade of shops an enclosed street with normal apartments above (although nowadays I think they are mostly bars and hotels), the market has always been next door so to speak.
Another project that this one owes something to is the Santa Caterina Market by Miralles Tagliabue EMBT in Barcelona. The colourful playful roof and redevelopment of the whole area conceptually makes this project a direct precursor.
The apartments are clusters of 4 around vertical shafts for access. The apartments all look outwards across Rotterdam with one glazed wall but have no other windows to speak of. Half of the apartments look also down onto the Market hall so as the curve or the inner walls gets more pronounced so the window to the hall turns down until it is in the floor of the uppermost apartments.
All About the Food
There is a food market on the ground floor, market stall holders from the previous market were given first refusal for the new spaces though I suspect many of them did not come over. I have seen photos of another outside market next door to the market hall (from a quick online search it looks like there is one weeekly directly outside) and wonder if really the old market was rehoused or merely moved.
The indoor market sits above a modern supermarket, and as such contains a much more performative space of food selling and consumption. The freshly squeezed fruit juice is made before your eyes, the oranges crushed right in front of you with only the perspex glass in between, the stroopwafels are made not away from the counter but also right on the counter for you to see, hear and smell. This is a space to enjoy the experience of food directly.
The performative nature that the food in the Market hall is reflected in the building murals adorning the roof, even the typology of the apartments appear as a kind of hyper arcade. A triumphal arch, a Church of food to eat and live in this buiding is just an extreme example of what has happened to food culture in the West in the last thirty years. The rise of cafe culture happened in the 90’s all over Northern Europe at least, in the UK between 1993 and 1997 the number of UK coffee outlets shot up by 847 per cent! Food has become a thing by which you are judged, through which you live and identify.
The space is celebratory, it’s performative and enjoyable. Go up the steps of a cafe there and sit on the roof overlooking the market and enjoy the spectacle. There is a mouldy argument that spaces like these are not authentic enough, fine go outside and by all means go on a search for the real Rotterdam market experience but that doesn’t recognise where we are now as a society, or where Rotterdam is right now. Sip your frappachino (copyright the Starbucks corporation) and enjoy.