The gap in the shoreline. When I say that to my husband, he knows exactly what I mean. And that’s unusual, because we’ve been sailing the inland waterways of Europe for years now and he is seldom able to enjoy the landscape and all the other sights we pass. I’m always delighted when we leave the Maas and sail into Rotterdam. The city where I was born, on the only island in the city. The gap in the shoreline – the vacant plot beside the Hulstkamp Building, seen from the Nieuwe Maas – was a fixture. Was. For that rare vacancy has been filled by a building that is in every way my idea of Rotterdam. Its contours and details are infused with the romance of the historical city; it could have been there for a hundred years. Yet you also sense that it’s new and modern. And I can live with that; it feels right somehow. It makes me curious, too. What do we look like from the top floor?
The Maaskade building site on Noordereiland has been waiting to be filled ever since the construction of the Hulstkamp building in 1892, but owing to a variety of circumstances it has not previously been possible to realize a suitable building. Now four luxury apartments will be built on and around the low-rise extension beside the Hulstkamp building. A sensitive project, in a sensitive location. Maaskade is an urban conservation area, the Hulstkamp building is a nationally listed building. Great precision and care have been devoted to producing a compelling plan. The historical research undertaken and the underpinning of the design rationale vis-à-vis the listed building and Noordereiland were crucial in securing all the necessary approvals.
The northern side of the island consists of a long wall of buildings in a mix of architectural styles, from neo-Renaissance to functional post-war reconstruction: a street front intended to impress and to signal affluence. The distinctive facade design of the new Hulstkamphuis is a subtle reaction to the surrounding buildings with their expressive mix of architectural styles. The facade appears to have been carved out of the volume: beneath the double roof is a solid block of stone inscribed with six arches with asymmetrical reveals. The scale of the total volume, the combination of window clusters and state-of-the-art stoneworking techniques turn this facade into a timeless, layered sculpture that fits into the overall eclectic configuration while simultaneously locating itself elusively in time.
Owing to the existing single-storey brick facade, which had to be retained, the shallow seven-metre depth, and the perimeters of the adjoining properties, the integration of this four-storey apartment block was a highly complex jigsaw puzzle. The result – one very spacious and comfortable apartment per level – speaks for itself. The river orientation and the urban high-rise make for a magnificent panorama. Together, these four apartments constitute, in the broadest sense of the word, a niche.
The client is the owner of the Hulstkamp building. The Thon Group was in a position to commission a plan for its own property portfolio and long-term returns. A hard-headed weighing up of short-term costs versus long-term profits resulted in this foreign property company enhancing a sensitive part of the urban fabric and making a substantial contribution to the continuing improvement of Rotterdam.
commission: new apartments next to the national monument ‘het Hulstkampgebouw’ | location: Maaskade Rotterdam | client: Thon Group structural | project management: Bremen Bouwadviseurs | engineer: Pieters Bouwtechniek | acoustics and building consultant: L.B.P. | fire safety consultant: L.B.P. | building services consultant: L.B.P. | program: 4 luxury apartments | sustainability: energy label A | floor area: 4.000 m² | design: 2009 | completion: scheduled for 2020