With floor-to-ceiling windows and a nine-metre-tall timber ceiling, the Dutch community of Meerstad has a new social hub — and an architectural showpiece. In the Netherlands, it’s all part of the local design language: Both the airy, comfortable spaces and the emphasis on communal experience fits a sensibility that has seen local firms garner global renown. That the social hub and architectural showpiece is a supermarket is more surprising. With the SuperHub, local designers De Zwarte Hond have created a distinct sense of place from a seemingly generic typology.
In designing the 2,090-square-metre building, De Zwarte Hond took inspiration from the Dutch market halls that have long served as community spaces around the country. And like MVRDV’s famed Rotterdam market hall, the complex is a contemporary interpretation of a traditional typology. At the SuperHub, the spacious layout of individual “market stalls” makes for an open, comfortable experience, transforming daily grocery shopping into a more leisurely activity — and leaving plenty of room for encounters and conversations among friends, neighbours and strangers.
Framed by a scenic natural landscape, the panoramic views offer another invitation to linger and savour the experience. Unlike a true market hall, however, a single grocer forms the primary tenant, with mixed-use vibrancy added via an on-site café and fitness centre. In addition, the roomy layout allows for events to be hosted in the evenings, creating a flexible social hub for an evolving community.
“A ‘super hub’ is the contemporary variant of the supermarket,” explain designers De Zwarte Hond. “It’s a building where you can do your shopping and that also offers an additional programme, such as (initially) a café and a health centre. This makes the SuperHub a pioneer building that grows with the neighbourhood and, in addition to providing the basic necessities of life, also provides opportunities for encounters, activity and entertainment.”
Situated at the locus of rapidly growing Meerstad, the building is poised to be surrounded by 5,000 new homes in the coming years, which will transform the area into a dense urban centre. Keeping an eye to the future, De Zwarte Hond designed the SuperHub as an adaptable room, allowing the handsome shell of sleek glass and soaring wood to be reconfigured as needs change. “The building could, for example, accommodate a community centre, a museum, or even homes in 20 years’ time,” note the designers. But with a space like this, it’s poised to remain the heart of the community whatever comes.