There was one predetermined goal during the planning phase of the hall: the building should pay for itself. That’s why it became a mixture of residential spaces accommodating 228 apartments in a horseshoe-shaped arch, which forms the exterior wall of the hall, as well as market booths, culinary options and a supermarket on the inside. Every other apartment features a balcony and a closed window overlooking the interior space.
The hall was designed by architect Winy Maas and the MVRDV Company from Rotterdam. The building cost 175 million Euros. The aim is to provide a qualitative contrast to the traditional street market in the directly adjoining market square, which offers simple goods, whereas the market hall presents delicacies at a higher price.
The enormous arched roof of the building that opened in 2014 primarily shows over-sized fruits, flowers, and animals inside, but there are also buildings near the hall like the Laurenskerk – a church that remains the only remaining medieval structure of the old Rotterdam. Dutch artist Arno Coenen is responsible for the colorful design of the ceiling, also known as the “cornucopia”.
Digital infotainment also plays a major role in the market hall. Touch screens at the entrance points and staircases of the parking garage make it easier for visitors to navigate the building. The parking garage underneath the hall also boasts small touch screen kiosks – directly next to “mini-exhibitions“. In small self-contained spaces with glass walls on every parking structure level, they showcase relics that were found during the construction of the building. The lower the floor, the older the exhibits. Touch screens invite customers to learn about each of them. Incidentally, the 1,200 available parking spaces can be reserved and paid for in advance.
It is amazingly quiet under the horseshoe-shaped ceiling of the building. As they enter the hall, visitors might expect the sounds of a railway station, yet the ceiling’s surface material pleasantly absorbs most of the noise.
Some of the market booths are true eye-catchers. They showcase appetizing premium fares as well as trendy foods. One of the retailers is an organic butcher, who really knows how to present his products in a fashion-forward store design using trendy natural materials and images that address responsible farm animal practices.
In addition to the market booths and culinary options inside, which in some instances spread over two levels, guests can also find smaller stores emphasizing Asian or organic products and a shop with cooking utensils on the ground floor as well as a large supermarket on the basement floor.
Yet not all retail spaces are occupied. Some booths appeared to be empty during the time of our visit – whereas the dining venues were well frequented. Meanwhile, shortly after the hall’s opening, crowds were sometimes so large that guests had to wait to be let in due to safety concerns.
By now, the hall is more of a tourist magnet than a place the people of Rotterdam frequently visit. For the vendors of the Market Hall, their presence here seems to have more of a representative value – a great opportunity to showcase their company in a coveted setting and try out new store concepts.