[Operations / Interior logistics at the Aalsmeer Flower auction, Aaalsmeer, The Netherlands. At 10.6 million ft2, it is the third largest building in the world.]

Editors Note: File under Feedback: Architecture’s New Territories, an InfraNet Lab seminar at Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design / University of Toronto. Guest post and images are by Fei-Ling Tseng.


The Flower Trade is a highly sophisticated market with an infrastructure optimally tuned to the preferences of both the supply and demand side. The world knows three North-South flower markets: America, Europe/Middle-East/Africa and Asia.

[World Flower Markets.]

These markets interact little with each other due to the logistic constraints of cut flowers. As opposed to many markets that utilize multiple middle men to get a product from its supply to its end destination, the flower market has reduced number of middle men (and therefore also costs) by making sure that most trade happens as directly as possible: between growers and wholesale buyers/exporters by means of Dutch auctioning.

[Screenshot: kweker > veiling > verkoper.]

In the Netherlands, flower auctions are run by co-operatives formed by the growers. Auctions require membership from both the supply and demand side of trade, which in turn ensures optimal coordination during all stages of the transaction process. The fact that a Dutch auction clock counts down the price instead of up, ensures the best price for farmers, and the best quality produce for what buyers are willing to pay.

The result of this system is that the first buyer sets the rough market price by bidding. Subsequential buyers often purchase within the range of the first bidder. Quite often the first bidder gets the best price because, as product availability decreases, the risk of missing out increases, and so does the price. [via flowerauction]

[The Flower Market embraces the logic of an auction clock in which the price counts down instead of up.]

FloraHolland is the largest flower auction co-operative in the Netherlands-and likely the world. Specifically for the cut flower sector, it is responsible for the trade of 97% of all flowers within the Netherlands and 60% of worldwide trade. (via USDA PDF)

[Import / Export flows through Aalsmeet Auction.]

Though FloraHolland has six auction locations in the Netherlands, their Aalsmeer location (called Vereniging van de Bloemenveiling in Aalsmeer prior to the merger in 2008) deals primarily with the auctioning of cut flowers for export. Located strategically close to Schiphol Airport and many major highways, flowers arrive both globally and locally within 12 hours before the auctions starts at 6:00AM. They are stored in cooling rooms with varying temperatures-each type of flower having their own ideal temperature to be kept in stasis. Around 4:30AM, the auction trolleys (Dutch: stapelwagens) that fit 27 buckets (Dutch: fust) of flowers per trolley, are neatly lined up and hooked to a complex internal rail system.

[The unique tools of he flower auction: the auction trolleys and flower buckets, or stapelwagens and fust.]

Everyday, this rail system guides 21 million flowers and plants through any one of the five auction rooms (four for cut flowers, one for potted plants). These flowers and plants are traded between grower and buyer typically within 4 hours (6:00AM to 10:00AM), through 55,000 individual transactions on average. In other words, on each of the 13 auction clocks that Aalsmeer Bloemenveiling possesses, a new transaction is made every five seconds or less.

[The Aalsmeer auction hall opens at 6:00am and closes four hours later.]

After the transaction has been made and the flowers roll out of the auction halls, they enter a distribution hall where employers of the auction buzz around on electric trucks (Dutch: electrotrekker), grabbing one auction trolley at the time and distributing the individual buckets of flowers to empty auction trolleys that belong to their new owners.

[Distribution hall.]

As all the morning trolleys have been emptied onto the new trolleys, the flowers are re-packaged by their new owners for transport to their end destination. This takes about two hours, at which point-around noon-the flowers would be on the road again headed towards their new destination. Flowers usually hit the storefront the next day following the auction. All in all, it takes about 36-42 hours for flowers to get cut until they reach their storefront end destination.

For more information about flower auctions:

There is a video that describes the internal workings of auction halls, but it only exists in Dutch.

A bit off-topic but still infinitely fascinating is how technology has transformed productivity in greenhouses. Here is a video of the walking-plant-system.

Watch as the auction trolleys move like zombies across the distribution halls to their end stations where they are individually fetched and redistributed by the electric trucks.

The New York Times wrote a nice piece about Aalsmeer back in 1993 that is available online here.


[...] Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer, Fei-Ling Tseng [...]

InfraNet Lab » Blog Archive » Border Economies: the Maquiladora Export Landscape added these pithy words on May 10 10 at 8:39 pm

[...] of the international flower trade market in a highly mechanized architecture in Holland ("Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer"), the "maquiladora" export production landscapes of northern Mexico ("Border [...]

feedback: architecture’s new territories - mammoth // building nothing out of something added these pithy words on May 18 10 at 5:49 pm

[...] This work was originally a guest post at Infranet Lab, as a result of research done in the course Feedback: Architecture's New Territories, conducted by [...]

Flowerauction Aalsmeer added these pithy words on Mar 08 11 at 12:38 am

With auction clock. Does use LED matrix, plasma or projector?

Minh added these pithy words on May 26 10 at 3:21 am

Hey Minh,
The auction clock is not limited to any of the three options you highlighted, though plasma is less used than the LED matrix and projector. Back in the day, analogue clocks were used (such as this one but that said, most auctions within FloraHolland are converting to a projected clock.

Fei added these pithy words on Jun 09 10 at 10:53 am

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