Markethal, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Wandering the streets of historic central Rotterdam one evening, I found myself standing in awe outside Markethal. It was a surprise to see the landscape around me open to reveal this intriguing contemporary, arched, mixed-use development which provides space for a fresh food hall, restaurants, and 228 apartments. 

Designed by world-leading Rotterdam architecture firm MVRDV under the direction of Winy Maas, the building was opened to the public in 2014. With the completion of Markethal this vibrant European city was delivered a sustainable, integrated facility that added to the city’s liveability by creating space for food retail, as well as dining, parking, and residences. 

The interior is visible from the exterior through 40-metre tall glass windows that draw visitors to the activity inside, together with the promise of good and nourishing foods! 

Just as enthralling as the building itself, are the faces of new and regular visitors who enter the grand space, everyone looking in wonder at the artwork, the shops, the colours and the great arch and surrounding apartments. 

Among the many striking features of the building is Cornucopia, a mural by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam, which adorns the interior walls and ceiling of the market space, in vibrant contrast to the natural grey stone of the façade and floor. Depicting large fruits, vegetables, flowers, seeds, insects and fish, the art is a playful reference to the 17th-century still life paintings of the Dutch masters. The MVRDV website tells us that the high resolution of the images was achieved using Pixar software that rendered the images onto perforated aluminium noise controlling panels.  

Each apartment has views to the exterior as well as into the market hall. Living rooms and bedrooms all face the exterior to receive natural light, and kitchens, dining rooms and storage facilities are faced towards the market. 

The contemporary structure is a new landmark for Rotterdam, and an iconic building in a country which is no stranger to pushing out the boundaries of architectural and engineering norms to improve both urban and rural habitat.