Rotterdam may have lost many of its historic buildings to the bombings of WW2, but its strategic location, multiculturalism, and vibrant port have since transformed this old Dutch city into a modern hotbed for cutting edge architecture and design. With contemporary structures popping up left and right, there is certainly no shortage of inspiration here, but if there is one design that's slated to change the face of this port city, it's the Rotterdam Market Hall. Designed by MVRDV, and currently under construction, the new market hall will be a towering 100,000 sq meter tunnel-shaped structure that fuses a bustling green market with residences, shopping, restaurants and more. We recently spoke to the hall's project leader, MVRDV architect Anton Wubben, about the landmark design. Read ahead for some of Anton's insight on the project, as he discusses everything from the flexible suspended glass facades to what inspired the shape of the building.
INHABITAT: How did you get your start with MVRDV?
Anton: After my architecture studies in Delft, I worked for one year as a freelance researcher at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. During this more analytic period of work I decided to finally move to the field of architecture. MVRDV was on the top of my list of offices to work at, and one interview and five days later I was working on my first deadline. At that time, the market hall was in the competition phase. I got interested in the project and joined the team in the next phase. During the process my role changed to project leader.
INHABITAT: Your office is based in Rotterdam — a city that is considered to be a hot-bed for modern design and architecture — do you feel that you have more freedom to pursue unconventional designs as a result?
Anton: Rotterdam is a very active and highly ambitious city with lots of new things happening. This always inspires people to be creative themselves and believe that they can make things happen.
INHABITAT: How did MVRDV’s involvement in the Rotterdam Market Hall project come about?
Anton: It started with the competition design that we submitted together with our client, Provast. The competition was held by the city. Not only did they make the decision to let our team build this project, but they are one of the investors of the project as they are the owners of the parking garage.
INHABITAT: What inspired the Market Hall design? What gave you the idea to flank housing on the outside of the structure?
Anton: The building is located at one of the biggest open squares of the Netherlands, which is surrounded by big massive buildings like the library and the Sint-Laurens church. We wanted to add another impressive volume to this palette.
The original masterplan showed two rows of apartments, with the space in between covered by a low roof. We imagined taking away this roof and “bending” the apartments over the market space would make more sense. It would create a fantastic space underneath the apartments and the two functions would be combined and work in synergy. The apartments have windows looking down to the market, making them special compared to standard apartments.
INHABITAT: The building is of a massive scale (100,000 sq m public market space covered in an arch of ten floors of 228 apartments) and incorporates a variety of diverse uses into one structure – what is the approach to managing the design/construction of such an elaborate building?
Anton: We worked closely with the different advisors form the start of the design to be sure that we wouldn’t miss a thing, and that the design would be integrated. From the start it was clear that the design would be a development of all specialties and that it would require some unconventional solutions.
For example, the facade has been carefully developed by our design team together with companies with a wide experience of making these kinds of complicated facades. We wanted an “invisible” facade to connect inside and outside, without huge beams behind the glass. We have been looking at examples abroad and have been talking to the developers of these facades.
By including all the advisors in the design process from the beginning, a lot of problems were avoided. But more importantly, having all the specialists in one room from the beginning made it possible to develop the design on all levels and to create a truly integrated design. An example of the product of this is the fresh air that is needed in the market space.
INHABITAT: How has the design been received thus far by the residents of Rotterdam?
Anton: People like the building and see it as an icon that Rotterdam can identify itself with. At this moment the building site is just very impressive being an enormous gap of two soccer fields in plan with a depth of about 15 meters. Everyone is excited to see the building unfold.
INHABITAT: What is your favorite part of the design?
Anton: I’m looking forward to the moment when I am standing on one of the glass floors on the patio of the penthouses that give a 90 degree view on the market 35 meters below. It is the perfect example of a succesful integration of apartments and the market itself.
INHABITAT: What do you hope the market hall will bring to the city of Rotterdam?
Anton: The Market Hall will be a great social place to meet, to buy food, have a drink or good dinner. It will be a great meeting place and a space that is like no other. On an urban level it will give extra energy to the development of the Laurens quarter, which is the pre-war center of Rotterdam. It will help to connect this area with the new city center.