No, you haven’t fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole. Rather, you’re one of the lucky few who get to call Rotterdam’s new Market Hall home, and that colourful explosion of produce, grain, insects, fungi and a snail are your constant companions (there’s a cow, too). The largest art piece in the Netherlands, Horn of Plenty by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam wraps the curving interior walls of the hall with such joy, you won’t want to hang curtains.
Opened to the public just two weeks ago, MVRDV’s Markthal is one of the most breathtaking food markets you’ll ever explore, and not just because of the surreal wallpaper. A long, horseshoe-shaped tunnel, both ends of the building are finished in soaring glass walls to allow light to rain upon the food vendors, as well as deep into subterranean levels; the thick exterior walls contain 228 apartments, most with sweeping views of the rugged port city.
In short, this is a piece of architecture that will quickly become a landmark for locals and visitors alike.
And, says MVRDV public relations chief Jan Knikker, it needs to be.
To complicate matters, the city’s 2004 competition brief called for rental apartments, condominiums and a significant number of parking spaces (1,200) as well as an enclosed market to complement the open-air one nearby.
In addition to the 96 food stalls and 20 retail units on the 43,000-square-foot ground floor (for comparison, Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market is 50,000 square feet according to ERA Architects), Markthal also boasts a full grocery store on the lower level, a flexible “edutainment” space, and yet another art installation beside the escalators titled “The Time Stair,” where the deeper one descends, the more one learns of the site’s history via archeological artifacts found during excavation, video, and sound.