In December I wrote a piece about Adelaide’s long established Central Market, set to celebrate its 150th anniversary next year.

Now I’ve come to see Rotterdam’s Markthal (Market Hall), just three and a half years old. Notwithstanding the age difference, the similarities between the two are remarkable; walking into Markthal, the layout, scale and produce on offer gave me the momentary feeling that I might have been walking back into Adelaide.

 While both are covered food markets occupying places of primacy in their respective cities, each has arrived by its own unique means.

In December’s blog I wrote about the cultural importance of Adelaide’s markets to that city; a position that has developed through a century and a half. Adelaide’s Central Markets provide a model for one of my themes; that traditionally time has been very important to the development of place-based cultures. When urban environments evolve through time they naturally come to express the cultural ecology in which they exist.

Rotterdam’s Markthal presents a different case.  The relatively new (2014) market in that city is a new cultural ecosystem that’s been created pretty much instantaneously. Its rapid success shows that imagination and creativity can be effective substitutes for time in the development of places that generate their own cultural ecology.

The Markthal is a text book case study in the benefits of government and developer working together with a powerful creative vision to drive urban development. In a clever blend of public space and private investment, it unites residential development with publicly accessible markets and the ecology of food and produce they have birthed. Public and private uses seamlessly intermingle, the permeable boundary between them enabling each to catalyse the other.

Connecting the two is the Netherlands’s largest artwork, 11,000 square metres of digital artwork lining the entire inside of the building. Called Horn of Plenty, the artwork, like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel from which it partially takes inspiration, has become a powerful attractor for the more than eight million visitors to Markthal each year, many of whom are drawn more by the artwork than the produce on offer.

Commissioned by the developer Provast, the artwork concept was created by art producers Mothership, working with artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam. Since coming across Markthal and its incredible artwork in my research last year, I’ve been looking forward to meeting with Mothership and learning more about their work.

Time spent in Rotterdam with Mothership’s directors Jeroen Everaert and Vincent van Zon last week didn’t disappoint. Like Cultural Capital, the original focus of their business – bringing art to people by producing works in the public realm – has evolved into developing creative visions for urban development– Markthal being an outstanding example. Based on similar philosophies, experience and approach, Cultural Capital and Mothership have agreed on a partnership model to actively develop projects together and extend each other’s global capacity and reach.

Mark McClelland, Creative Director