On view

Digging up
the past

The Time Stairs

Markthal, Rotterdam (NL)

On the ancient fundaments of the city of Rotterdam, now the Markthal has arised, Holland’s first indoor food market designed by MVRDV architects. The archaeological objects found during the digging for the building’s car park form the basis of an exhibition we designed in the stairwells of the underground car parking: The Time Stairs.

Rotterdam (NL)
Provast and Gemeente Rotterdam
Project management, Spatial design, Graphic design
Design logo
Robin Stam

Content exhibition
Kloosterboer Decor
Kloosterboer Decor, Studio Rublek
Film and animations
Tungsten Studio, Carolien Bijvoet
Descent to the source

A cluster of escalators at the centre of the Markthal leads to the shops in the basement and the garage, at a depth of 15 metres. We used the stairwell to present a journey through time. Leftover spaces underneath the escalators have been transformed into exhibition spaces, in which the found objects are displayed. Touch screens allow visitors to find out more about them.

Layered presentation

A graphic timeline connects the four floors. Each floor represents a different era in the city’s history. Abstract graphic prints on the glass walls of the stairwell and the escalators’ sides show the different layers of soil visitors move through. By the play with varying degrees of transparency ‘peepholes into time’ are created; an exciting effect that continuously generates new images in both the stairwell and the different levels of the garage.

Experience history

Because of The Time Stairs, parking is no longer just a practical act, but a special experience that engages with the history of the city of Rotterdam. The exhibition is open daily and available to everyone, so the location’s history is made easily accessible to a very diverse audience. As a result The Time Stairs offers an important contribution to the experience and historical identity of Rotterdam’s inner centre.


Dutch Public Archaeology Prize 2015