Set in the heart of the German town of Mainz, the exotic Markthauser is a mixed-use project clad in a futuristic facade of painted ceramic slats. The new building replaces a mock-historic rundown apartment complex, but rather than taking the same track the project provides contrast, adding lightness to the city center and highlighting the traditional buildings around it without becoming overbearing. Translated as the Markethouse, Studio Fuksas’ contemporary design makes brilliant use of the space with a deep day-lit atrium that combines indoor, outdoor, public, and private areas.
At first the building looks jarringly out-of-place when set against the old city’s vernacular — but on closer examination the design strives to forge a harmonious link with the past. Unlike some of its bland late-century concrete neighbors, the building is bright and airy, and it features an inviting street front that funnels visitors into the light-filled atrium. The project’s simple, abstract horizontal strips and classically sloped roof create contrast with the older buildings while transitioning from old to new and from concrete to cut stone.
The façade is made from thousands of 2-inch strips of painted terra-cotta tiles that cover insulated metal panels. Seemingly random windows dot the surface in a pattern that looks similar to a DNA sequence. Other view windows and skylights are protected from the sun with exterior rolling screens.
In the center of the building lies a grand public atrium that leads to the downstairs business and upper residences. The atrium visually connects the complex while creating a vertical neighborhood that sacrifices private square footage for public interaction. An upper floor topped with a glass roof directs daylight into the lower areas through unique skylights that flood the spaces with diffused light.
Inward-facing, full-height windows allow plenty of light into the apartments without causing for overheating, even in the peak of summer. The sculpted space features three massive columns that run all the way up to the rooftop from the ground floor, which features public spaces and business as a reflection of the commercial heart of the medieval town.
Photographs © Moreno Maggi