Food. No other category is capable of generating such delicious public experiences. Far more than film, sex and drugs that unleash a purely solitary involvement. Also more than work, sport and music, which engage in a way that may be splendid but is nonetheless unambiguous. Food is the maître chef of an ambiguous street festival. Food is cooking up a constant celebration of consumption. Food cultivates urban life. After all, everyone has to eat and buy food. Everyone has to go out and stock up on food.
So come what may, everyone must swap the private domain for a public one and rub shoulders with other cultures, attitudes, outlooks and codes. This is the point where alliances, friction and conflict can arise, and it is also the boiling point where you can speak in terms of a public domain. That's why NIO architecten invented The Fire Emperor, a new holding of markets that has taken the shape of a building.
The Fire Emperor has no transparent airy hall on the inside, but is one big, inimitable devouring machine, a hedonic tangle of spaces inspired by intestines. The dazzling diversity of the food on offer is reflected in the festive spirit of the interior design. It is as if the market hall itself has been fattened with interiors that have all nationalities and styles. A corny German-expressionist space is being alternated with an obscure Thai-New Age room. It is a market hall that is not embarrassed of anything and that burps nicely after having consumed yet another stylistic tour de force.
In Rotterdam the team have proposed to locate The Fire Emperor on ‘het Steiger', a spot that, before the war, was one of Rotterdam's most mysterious places but now looks desolate and deluded. They have placed the Fire Emperor in such a way that it becomes the pivot between the existing outside market on ‘de Binnenrotte' and the new floating market on the water of ‘het Steiger', and this way it lets things steam and damp nicely, day and night.