The ‘Sistine Chapel’ of Rotterdam, in Holland


The Markthal Rotterdam (Holland) is a gigantic arch within which there is an attractive and crowded market with more than 90 stalls, eight restaurants, 20 stores and 1,200 underground parking spaces that blend seamlessly with 228 ultramodern apartments. A place that leaves no one indifferent, neither national nor foreigner.

Markthal Rotterdam

Some compare it with a contemporary cathedral, not only for its architecture and dimensions, but also for its colossal interior open space and for the huge and seductive work of art that covers its very high ceiling, like a Sistine Chapel, but of simply oversized proportions. Although this is a secular cathedral, and more than secular, mundane: totally devoted to food, drinks, leisure, shopping and good quality of life.

Located in the downtown area of Laurens Quarter, this work is provided with 100.000 square meters, was designed by the studio MVRDV and was inaugurated in 2014, after an investment of about 200 million dollars. It is considered a global example of urban recovery, as it revitalized the entire sector that surrounds it, making it a very busy place at all hours of the day.

According to MVRDV, the Markthal apartments follow the strict Dutch laws regarding natural light: all the rooms that require solar lighting are located outdoors, while the kitchens, dining rooms and storage areas are located on the market side, establishing a form of connection with that large covered space dedicated to restoration, food and entertainment.

The front and rear parts of the building are covered with a flexible suspended glass facade, which allows maximum transparency as well as a minimum structure, the largest of its kind in Europe, according to comments from MVRDV.

Its internal ceiling is one of its most seductive elements. Above it, at 40 meters high, the artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam have created a multicolored painting called Horn of Plenty that has a total area of 11,000 square meters and is one of the world’s greatest works of art.

At the top of the market there is a huge vault with a shape reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican. To cover the interior of this arched ceiling, the artists created a digital image that represents a vivid ‘still life’ with vegetables, fruits, fish, seafood and other animals, and architectural details enhanced with special effects in 3D, in whose development the Pixar animation studio.

A great sun, which floats in the center of the work of art, replaces the biblical characters typical of the Vatican vault, and the fruits do the same with the saints that appear in the famous work of The Last Judgment, of the great Michelangelo. The general composition includes themes of art history revitalized by computer-generated graphics, Arno & Iris explains.

This market, which has become the main architectural icon of Rotterdam, is visited every week by some 150,000 people, of which 33 percent are from Rotterdam, 20 percent of the metropolitan area of the city and 47 percent remaining from other places in the Netherlands and abroad.

Its main attraction are the positions that make up the market, where the quality and variety of products offered can seduce for a long time to any gourmet and lover of good food. 37 percent of visitors go to their publications.

Its second attraction is the restaurants and the third, its stores, posters, etc.

76 percent of those who step on it take out their wallets to make a purchase, according to Strabo, one of the leading Dutch firms specializing in market research and real estate data. “It is one of the best developments in retail and housing that has been seen. I even dare to say that it is the best new shopping center of this century”, says Hans van Tellingen, director of Strabo.

What there is no doubt is that this powerful blend of avant-garde architecture, art, gourmet market, good gastronomic offer and ultramodern housing has been a resounding success.