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Radiant and residential: The new market hall in Rotterdam/NL

Since its reconstruction after World War II, the Dutch harbour metropolis of Rotterdam has been an experimental field for town planners and architects. The most recent example is the new, futuristic market hall. The unusual project of the MVRDV architectural practice consists of a 100 metre-long and 40 metre high hybrid construction in the form of an urban triumphal arch. There are 96 market stalls on the ground floor, while the complex, arched construction overhead integrates 228 apartments with spectacular views of the inside of the market hall and its colourfully designed vaulted ceiling.

Rotterdam market hall
Dominee Jan Scharpstraat 298, 3011 Rotterdam/NL
Provast Nederland bv, Den Haag
MVRDV, Rotterdam/NL
Project management:
Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs, Nathalie de Vries
Main contractor:
Mobilis / Martens en Van Oord, Oosterhoud / NL
Structural design:
Royal HaskoningDHV, Den Haag: Maurice Hermens

The new market hall in Rotterdam creates an unusual combination of covered market and high-quality urban living.

Façade design:
Octatube, Delft/NL
Metal fabricator:
AKS bouw, Grubbenvorst/NL
Art on the building:
Arno Coenen und and Iris Roskam, Rotterdam/NL
Construction period:
2009 – October 2014
Total area:
228 Appartements, 4.600 m² market area, 1.800 m² hospitality trades
Schüco systems:
ASS 43/48, ADS 65

The freehold and rented apartments offer between 80 and 300 m2 of floor space.

When approaching the new building in Rotterdam, it may seem at first glance as though a giant aircraft hangar has been installed in the centre of the Dutch port city. The precise location where the city was founded in 1270 with the construction of a dam on the Rotte river has, since 2014, been home to an experimental newbuild designed by MVRDV architects who, through the combination of urban living and covered market areas, have created something that has never been seen before. In the 5500 m2 interior of the hall, the visitors are immersed in a bustling market scene bursting with the most diverse culinary specialities. The reinforced concrete arch above the hall with its vibrantly coloured vaulted ceiling houses additional stalls, restaurants and businesses on the two lower floors, while the architects added 228 freehold and rented apartments on the ten upper levels. One special feature of the generous, open-plan apartments are the balconies which open out towards the city, and the windows on the inside of the arch with their dizzying views into the grand hall area. The newbuild space is rounded off with a supermarket and three-storey garage with 1200 parking spaces, which are both underground. An important element of the newbuild is the two cut-out horseshoe-shaped front façades made from glass, which open the market hall out towards the city to the east and west, allowing plenty of natural light into the interior. The 34 metre-high and 42-metre wide cable net façades – the largest of their kind in Europe – each consist of 26 vertical and 22 horizontal cables, between which the square laminated safety glass panes measuring 1.5 x 1.5 metres are fixed. When combined, these elements ensure that both of the front façades are flexible when subject to wind load and can bend inwards by up to 70 cm. The most adverse weather conditions can therefore do nothing to prevent a visit to the only covered market hall in the Netherlands.

The ceiling of the newbuild was designed by the Rotterdam artists, Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam, using the enormous, approx. 11,000 m2 digital printing of the »Horn of Plenty«.

»The market hall as a hybrid«

Interview with MVRDV partner Winy Maas
With their concept for the market hall in Rotterdam, MVRDV have created a new type of building, which does not spatially separate the living areas from the market activities, as has previously been the case. Instead, it brings them together in a very unconventional way.

PROFILE: The market hall is a type of building which originates more from the 19th Century. Were there any historical examples that you used for your design?

Winy Maas: We donʹt have a tradition of covered markets in the Netherlands. So, before we began designing, we looked at some different historical market halls in Italy and Scandinavia. We didnʹt see them as models for our design, as we didnʹt want an introverted market – we wanted to create a light, transparent and inviting market hall for the present.

PROFILE: Originally it was intended for two skyscrapers and an adjacent market hall to be constructed. How did you come up with the idea to combine the two functions?

Winy Maas: Market halls are generally housed in dark, closed buildings, which have little connection to their surroundings. In contrast to this, we wanted to provide a key stimulus for the regeneration of the neighbouring Laurens Quarter and the inner city area to the east. That is why we simply brought the two residential towers together over the market, thereby developing a large hall with generous openings towards the city.

PROFILE: What role did the existing weekly market at the site play?

Winy Maas: The planning was carried out against the backdrop of a new EU regulation which forbids the sale of fresh fish and meat in the open air. As a result, the city of Rotterdam very explicitly specified that the newbuild had to be a covered extension to the existing weekly market. The two markets therefore had to complement one another and not stand in competition.

Text: Robert Uhde
Photos: Daria Scagliola/Stijn Brakkee, Ossip van Duivenbode and Boudewijn-Bollmann