Part of the “new heart” of the Laurens Quarter, the pre-war centre of the city, the Markthal Rotterdam comprises a 40m-high arch with privately developed apartments on each side, enclosing a covered public square. This ground floor space is a central market hall during the day, but remains lively in the evening thanks to the restaurants on its first floor.

The market stalls will offer everything from bread, cheese, fruit and vegetables, to fish, meat and flowers, much of which will be sourced locally. The arch structure also houses a cooking school and an exhibition space, where the historic artefacts found during excavations are to be displayed.

The building has been designed as a fully integrated, sustainable combination of food, leisure, living (in 228 apartments) and underground parking.

In line with strict Dutch laws regarding natural daylight, all rooms requiring natural light are situated on the outside of the arch, with kitchens, dining rooms and storage areas overlooking, and “establishing a connection to the market”. Standard apartments vary in size from 80 to 140 square metres, and each has a balcony, while the 24 penthouses are accessed through their own personal entrances via stairs or an optional lift. These range from 140 to 300 square metres, have large terrace and a window to the market below.

The front and back of the arch are covered with a flexible suspended glass façade some 34 metres high and 42 metres wide. This, says MVRDV, “allows for maximum transparency and a minimum of structure”. The laminated glass panels are hung between 26 vertical and 22 horizontal pre-stressed steel cables, designed to function “like a tennis racket”: i.e., when subject to strong wind forces, the façade can move in up to 70cm.  

The vaulted interior is essentially a huge mural designed by Rotterdam-based artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam. Called, “the Horn of Plenty”, and featuring fruit, vegetables and animals, it is meant to provide “a symbolic reference to the goods sold in the market hall, like a contemporary interpretation of Dutch still life painting”.

The image file was rendered by Pixar Studios to achieve the required sharpness, then printed on to a total of 4,000 individual aluminum panels, together covering a surface area of 11,000 square metres, by Dutch specialist hard substrate printing company TS Visuals.

TS Visuals employed a special printing process based on sublimation, whereby at a high temperature the ink of the printed design turns into a gas and penetrates the coated panel to form a solid, resistant and durable layer that both protects and decorates the base material. The resulting panels are lightfast, bendable and can be cut in any shape. UV-resistance can be extended, depending on the application and purpose of the project.

Acoustic requirements meant that the aluminium panels on the market were perforated from a height of 8m upwards and attached to acoustic panels. They also received a scratch-resistant high gloss, anti-graffiti powder coating.

The building’s exterior facade is clad in the natural stone used for Rotterdam pavements.

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