Cooltoren | Rotterdam

I’m not a native-born Rotterdammer. I don’t even live in Rotterdam. But I’m a frequent visitor, for pleasure and for work. It’s a fascinating city. Fast, forthright, businesslike, always on the lookout for opportunities. Plain-speaking, too: white is white, black is black and grey may well exist but not in fifty shades. The city has been quite literally touched and shaped by the war, reconstruction, urban renewal and urban development. And thus, by all manner of architecture. Look around you and you’ll see the successive years of Rotterdam Wederopbouwstad (Reconstruction City). And of Rotterdam Hoogbouwstad (High-rise City). For nothing beats an above-ground view of Rotterdam. Look out at the cityscape from some tenth or fifteenth floor and be amazed by the towers. Not every building merits a beauty prize but there are a few dominant landmarks that radiate pride. That radiate quality. You can never have enough of that kind of tower, and you never get tired of them. Cooltoren will be one such tower. I’ve seen the designs, I’ve seen the location, I’ve seen the future. Let tomorrow begin.

The Baankwartier is a small corner of inner-city Rotterdam that appears to have been overlooked. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Cool neighbourhood, of which the Baankwartier is part, has been designated part of the high-rise city. On the spot where the streetscape is defined by a miscellany of architecture and buildings surrounded by service roads, the skyline of Rotterdam will be enriched with the Cooltoren. A 150-metre-tall apartment tower with a striking and functionally relevant silhouette: the centre of gravity is in the middle. Owing to the placement of the balconies and the use of panoramic ribbon glazing, the horizontal stacking of the 50 residential levels proceeds from airy at street level to heavy around the middle, and airy again where it touches the clouds. As a result, the tower harmonizes with the fine-grained urban fabric at ground level and at every subsequent level the height is of significance: up to 70 metres (once the mandatory height limit in Rotterdam) the tower relates to life on the street; above that the living experience is defined by the panorama.

Project details
commission: construction of new 150-metre-high residential tower | location: Baan Rotterdam | client: De Vijf Heeren B.V. | project management: U-Vastgoed B.V. | structural engineer: Van Rossum | fire safety consultant: Wolf + Dikken | building services consultant: Wolf + Dikken | contractor: Ballast Nedam Bouw | program: 282 apartments, ranging from 60 to 400 m² | floor area: 37.620 m² | design: 2016 | completion: 2020 | particularities: highest residential tower of Rotterdam city centre

Post-war reconstruction and the Baankwartier
The Baankwartier in Rotterdam is a rather secluded district in the lee of the city centre. For the most part, the spatial structure and the buildings date from the post-war reconstruction period. Given its significance for the architecture and urban design of that period, the area has been designated one of five post-war reconstruction focus areas.

The significance of height
The Cooltoren’s location in Rotterdam and in the Baankwartier calls for a clarification of the height. The tower is much more than a stacking of apartments until the maximum height is reached. The tower relates to its surroundings at different heights, at both the large and the small scale. The ‘Rotterdam layer’ with its virtual 70-metre limit plays a crucial role, as do the base and the top of the building, of course. The particularization of the building volume at these specific levels integrates the Cooltoren with the urban fabric and with the skyline of Rotterdam.

The Baanblok as supporting structure for the Cooltoren
During the elaboration of the Cooltoren’s integration with the ‘Rotterdam layer’, careful attention was paid to the four existing buildings in the western wall of the Baanblok. The insertion of a 150-metre-high tower and the addition of some 37,620 m² of housing inevitably results in a conflict of scale with the small grain of the Baanblok. This conflict was the starting point for a decision to inject new meaning into the urban fabric in the Baanblok via a synthesis of the two levels of scale. The way the tower ‘lands’ positions the high-rise logically in the ‘Rotterdam layer’, with the original historical fabric being dealt with in an appropriate manner.

New grid and associative elevation
The mass of the vertical structure was projected onto the ground level, resulting in a new, logical parcellation in which high-rise and low-rise support one another. The different widths of the low-rise sections refer to the original granularity. Just as this original parcellation derived from a rational functionality, so the new parcellation is a direct consequence of the rationale of the 150-metre-high tower. The markedly horizontal articulation develops gradually from the middle of the tower into increasingly slender bands. Together with the vertical structure, these bands create a grid within which a layered composition of facade themes gives rise to an exterior that refers to the reconstruction history of the Baanblok – not in any historicizing or abstract way, but through associations with a rich palette of reconstruction architecture. These themes are deployed in such a way that they support the parcellation of the base and form an introduction to the architecture of the tower.