Is there flat ornamentation in Rotterdam?

The Hulstkamp Building can be found on Maaskade in Rotterdam, on Noordereiland. It is a splendid nationally listed building that was designed in 1888 by Jacobus Pieter Stok. Maaskade is an urban conservation area that is graced by many different architectural styles that nevertheless go well together, from commercial post-war reconstruction to Renaissance Revival, such as the Hulstkamp Building. Immediately next to this building is a plot that was never built on, for a variety of reasons.

Until now, that is. That is because 2021 marks the completion of a new building with four luxury apartments that effortlessly blends in to the urban conservation area. Nevertheless, it stands out due to the design of the façade and particularly due to its method of construction.

Its appearance has a contemporary mix of the surrounding architectural styles which are used in an innovative interpretation of form and combined with new craftsmanship. For instance, the building has neoclassical features such as arched windows, but not as a literal repetition of form. So, this is a reversal. Whereas the existing part of the Hulstkamp Building has a natural stone base with brick on top, this new building has a brick base with a natural stone façade cladding on top. Where the façade ornamentation of the current building faces outwards, it is indented inwards on the new building.

The effect of this is that you notice the layered façade with traditional details and striking shifts in dimensions as an organic part of the surroundings when you are right in front of the building. It is only when you look along the façade that you see that it is completely flat. This is the result of a complex, geometric 2D and 3D driven design process. It is also due to special way of working with natural stone.

At first sight, the façade appears to have been constructed from solid natural stone blocks. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Solid natural stone blocks are no longer appropriate in these times, because of among other things the burden on the environment during production, transport and processing. This façade relied on manual work carried out in the traditional way by a stone mason in Portugal! Natural stone sheets with a thickness of 3 cm were cut from an Egyptian limestone which were put together on a steel frame as façade elements. By moving these to the inner side of the building relative to each other, an unexpected, layered effect is created. This is a form of visual diversion resulting from design that buzzes with pleasure and modern artisanal ingenuity.