It was my privilege to make a return visit to the Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam last week – which is probably my favourite creative re-use project of all time.
Originally built as a factory for processing coffee, tea and tobacco, the site comprises 10 separate buildings, many of which are wrapped in an amazing glazed envelope.
The buildings, designed by Dutch Modernists Brinkman and Van der Vlugt in the 1920s, are an example of Nieuwe Bouwen [or Dutch modern architecture]. The architects were commissioned by the co-owner of the Van Nelle company, Kees van der Leeuw, who was passionate about production efficiency, emerging ideas of socialism and the possibilities of modern architecture.
Since becoming redundant in 1987, when the factory production moved elsewhere, the Van Nelle factory has been transformed into a vibrant ‘design factory’ (“Van Nelle Ontwerpfabriek” in Dutch) under the careful guidance of local architect Wessel de Jonge.
The conversion scheme is rooted in a robust conservation philosophy which has included careful rules for the introduction of contemporary interventions.
The Van Nelle regeneration scheme is an exemplar of creative reuse and combines sustainability and design flair, with brilliant conservation skills. The result is an inspiring and dynamic range of great workspaces where the authenticity of the original fabric and architecture has created a wonderful new Modern classic!