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MVRDV's Markthal PR Campaign; Or, How We Learned the Price of Chicken

09:31 - 1 October, 2015
MVRDV's Markthal PR Campaign; Or, How We Learned the Price of Chicken, © Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee
© Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee

Becoming "the Sistine Chapel of Food" required a lot of invisible hard work. As Rotterdam's Markthal turns one year old, MVRDV's Head of Public Relations and Business Development Jan Knikker reflects on how the PR and media hype around Markthal Rotterdam was organized. This article is also supplemented by an interview conducted by ArchDaily with Winy Maas and Jan Knikker, which connects the parallel lines of the building's design and its PR campaign.

If I say that this is a PR story will you believe a single word? Markthal Rotterdam is a PR story with astonishing results: since its opening by queen Maxima in October 2014, our office MVRDV has nearly doubled in size to 110 staff members and it’s still growing. We - and The Financial Times - call it the “Markthal Effect”. In the first year the building reached over 8 million visitors, more than the Eiffel Tower, Bilbao Guggenheim or Tate Modern. 800 articles were published worldwide. It was hailed as a Sistine Chapel for food, a symbol of urban renaissance, a cool place to go. With the roughly 4 million visitors that came from outside of Rotterdam, the city saw its tourism grow.

How did that happen? It would be an easy assumption to think that a great building naturally attracts this kind of attention. But it all started quietly. In 2004 developer Provast and MVRDV won the competition with a plan that resembles the current design, except with one big difference: the colorful art piece which brightens up the inside of Markthal was at that stage also all over the outside facade. In any other city that would have lead to an instant protest movement against the zeppelin hangar covered in a gigantic fruit wallpaper. But not in Rotterdam. Public awareness started only once the construction became noisy.

© Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee © Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee © Ossip van Duivenbode © Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee + 7

Winy Maas and Jan Knikker on Markthal, PR, Awards and Architecture Media

08:30 - 1 October, 2015
Winy Maas and Jan Knikker on Markthal, PR, Awards and Architecture Media, © Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee
© Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee

Today marks one year since Queen Máxima of the Netherlands opened MVRDV's Markthal in Rotterdam to great public fanfare. In the 12 months since this event, the building has come to be recognized by the architectural establishment as being among the most important of MVRDV's designs. Perhaps more interestingly though, it has become widely popular among the general public - on Google you can find references to "Rotterdam's Sistine Chapel" in a variety of languages, and articles about the building have appeared in publications everywhere from Colombia to Vietnam.

MVRDV Head of Public Relations and Business Development Jan Knikker's article, published today on ArchDaily, shows that this widespread recognition was not accidental; it was the result of a widespread and comprehensive PR strategy initiated by MVRDV and carried out by a team that included every one of the building's major stakeholders. It's a fascinating and provocative tale that offers an insight into one of the least trusted facets of architectural practice. However, it also largely ignored one important element that undoubtedly contributed to the building's popularity: its design.

In order to connect the two parallel lines of Markthal's design and its PR campaign, we spoke to Knikker and founder of MVRDV Winy Maas to talk about Markthal, PR, awards and architectural media. Read on for the full interview.

© Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee © Nico Saieh © Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee © Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee + 30