Markthal Rotterdam – MVRDV

Architects: MVRDV (Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries)

Location: Binnenrotte Square, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Project year: 2014

Binnenrote square is a new public space created in the heart of Rotterdam in 1996. Formerly occupied by the monumental railway viaduct and other infrastrutures, the space found a new purpose after moving the railway underground. It was decided to create a large empty space that is going to serve as the site of a large market. Slow rebuilding of the whole Binnenrote area culminated by the creation of Markthal – the building that not only encloses the first indoor market of Netherlands, but also serves as an apartment building.

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Apart of the viaduct, building´s design is strongly related to other parts of Binnenrotte´s history and present: the former dike, the Laurens church, located parallel to the Markthal or the nearby Blaak station.



The basic concept of the building is nothing new – two slabs of apartment buildings and a public space inbetween. What made the building so special and caused it to become a new Rotterdam icon is the idea to connect the slabs into arched structure protecting the inside space. It created a totally new typology – combination of indoor market, supermarket, restaurant, underground parking and apartments was never before seen. 114 metres long structure is opened on both sides and seamlessly merges into the outside market. The whole inside surface is decorated by the colourful artwork by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam, making the space actually one of a kind. On the contrary the modest exterior of the building is executed of the grey stone – the same one as the material of the pavements, which truly makes the interior – the most important part – shine and draws people in.

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the schemes of the design

Underneath the building there are 4 floors dedicated mostly to parking, the basement floor serves as the expedition court and the antire supply of the stores and shops. The hidden tunel connects the building to Binnenrotte square and makes the delivery as clean, quick and quiet as possible. The stores are supplied by elevators to make sure the noise in the early morning does not disturb the inhabitants in any way.


floor plan – underground floor

The first floor serves as the market and also contains the restaurants. The market-goers can access the hall by one of the two entries on both sides of the building, the inhabitants use six separate entrances leading to elevator halls and stairs.


floor plan – ground floor

In total, the buildings consists of 228 apartments. One elevater hall provides acces to the maximum of 4 apartments. All apartments have balconies opening to the exterior, and smaller windows to the interior – triple glazed to prevent the noises or smells entering the living space. The building feature many different kinds of apartments ranging from 80 to 300 m2; from small, free-space apartments to luxurious duplex apartments or spacious penthouses on the upper floor with great roof terraces.


different kinds of apartments

floor plan – typical upper level 

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Another important aspect of the design is its emphasis on the sustainbility. The building features natural ventilation by the roof shafts, the carefully controlled exchange of heat and cold is used to keep the energy use extremely low. The design was consulted with the Rotterdam ecologists.

the roof plan with the shafts


Overall, there is no doubt that this building is in its way revolutionary. Functioning, practical urbanism and combination of functions has put Binnenrotte in the architecture magazines and books. But of course, with absolutely new typology there comes a certain amount of risk. The building is basically brand new and nobody can really tell how it is going to function 10 years from now. It is definitelly an interesting experiment – but only time will tell if Markthal is an important step into the future – or just one of the many dead ends in the history of architecture.

Photographs by Nico Saieh, Daria Scagliola and Stijn Brakkee, images courtesy of MVRDV architects 

Alzbeta Dvorakova



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