The Slaak Rotterdam wants to share the story of the city’s reconstruction. We would like to introduce to you our city and some striking examples of post-war architecture.
‘Wederopbouw’ is the term used to denote the redevelopment period after the Second World War. Rotterdam is known as the Wederopbouw city. 1945 – 1968 is seen as the Reconstruction period. The first plan to rebuilt the city was made by engineer W.G. Witteveen, who started with the plan just 4 days after the bombardment. The second plan, known as the Basic plan, came from his successor Van Traa. In this plan, a whole new infrastructure was developed and the old, so-called City Triangle structure, was abandoned completely.
The Slaak is named after the so-called Slaakvaart. A former canal-like spot where boats came to rest, created by a surplus of water from its main source, received the name ‘Slaak’ after definitive damping in 1901. It was a lively street, to say the least. From 1907 onwards, the place was home to a building called Voorwaarts, designed by architect H.P. Berlage, and housed various social-democratic institutions, under which an equally named newspaper. Voorwaarts was destroyed in 1940. Between 1952 and 1954, next to the ruins of Voorwaarts, even using some of the old foundation, a new building was built for the Arbeiderspers (Labour Press). The biggest part of the building was in use by ‘Het Vrije Volk’, a successor of Voorwaarts. The building was designed by Jo Vegter. It included a big, modern printing office, and an office that did not only provide space for the newspaper editors, but also a bookstore and a travel agency. The office building also included a garage and two company homes. Above the entrance, you will find a bronze sculpture designed by sculptor Wessel Couzijn called: Koerier in Vliegende Haast (Courier in A Hurry). The sculpture was a gift from PvdA (Social-Democratic Political Party), vagabond NVV (Association of Trade Unions), and VARA (Broadcasting Association of Workers)
Oostplein was part of the Schielands Hoge Zeedijk until the Second World War. Most of the buildings were destroyed in 1940. The buildings around the square are quite fragmented. Architect Willem Fiolet drew a flat on the corner of Oostplein and Groenendaal. In 1958 an office building by the design of H.A. Maaskant was delivered. The building has changed quite a bit due to renovations. Currently, several shops (such as Coolblue) reside in the building. The square of Oostplein is one of the busiest traffic squares of the inner city.
Architects Hugh Maaskant and Willem van Tijen realized two assembly buildings: at Oostzeedijk (1947) and Goudsesingel (1952). Maaskant was also the chief designer of the well known Groothandelsgebouw at Weena (1953). After the war, there was a big need for practical offices and business space. However, the idea for collective corporate housing existed already and was used quite often in America. In 2015 the Industriegebouw was nearly vacant and radically modernized. Currently, you can find here various restaurants and bars, small (creative) shops and companies. In the lowrise, behind Achterklooster, the renowned architectural office ‘MVRDV’ is located.
Before the bombardments, the city center used to be much more located towards the east and Hoogstraat was an important shopping street with cinema’s and nightlife; the so-called ‘Kalverstraat of Rotterdam’.
For the machinery industry, architect Witteveen built an industrial building with houses. The ground floor includes offices, a showroom, and a workplace. On top of that, there are six houses. Witteveen thought about traditional solutions: brick facades, windows with rod distributions, decorative elements, and slanted caps. It was a building project in the Pannekoekstraat. The other buildings in the street are much in the style of Nieuwe Bouwen (New Building). Since 2014 the ‘geveltjes’ (facades) are a municipal monument.
At one point, half of the people in Rotterdam had a savings account here. After the bombardments, it was not until 1957 that Spaarbank Rotterdam had a new headquarters. For the definitive design, a household designer was appointed: J.J.P. Oud. The final design was already finished in Oktober 1943. The elaboration, however, took years due to changes in limitations of the terrain, the direction of Spaarbank constantly coming up with new requirements, and problems with the expropriation of the plot of land. Around 1993, the building became vacant. After that, among other companies, Berlage Instituut resided in the building. Nowadays, Luzac College resides in the building.
During the bombardments of May 1940 the Sint Laurenskerk was heavily damaged. After the war there were several ideas on how the church would be rebuilt. Some wanted to leave the ruins as they were, as a memory to the destruction. J.J.P. Oud had a rather shocking plan to only restore the tower and built a new, smaller church behind it, next to Luchtspoor. The final decision was rebuilding. In 1968 the rebuilding was finished and the church received two brand new bronze doors, representing War and Peace, made by Italian artist Giaomo Manzù.
At the corner of the streets called Meent and Westewagenstraat, there was the office for a life insurance company ‘De Nederlanden from 1845’ (built-in 1952), now Cafe Dudok. Willem Dudok was de permanent architect of the life insurance company. Except for the light and spacious office area on the lower floors, the building contains four floors with homes. The building used this format until around the 1980s, while the company name was long changed to Nationale Nederlanden. After that, the building was used by municipality and by carpet traders. In 1991 all the ‘junk’ was demolished and the large office space regained its old allure. Since 1991 Grand Cafe Dudok is a famous concept throughout Rotterdam (and The Netherlands).
Laurenskwartier is the oldest part of the city. De dam in de Rotte (The dam in the Rotte), to which the city originated, was once near Hoogstraat at the Binnenrotte. The area has no clear boundaries. Before the war, it was a maze of streets. The building after the war can be called fragmented: a combination of offices and (big) shops. Part of the Wederopbouw buildings have since been demolished or renovated, among which de former Hufpand.
During the bombardments, the Bijenkorf was largely destroyed. However, the building was used again after the necessary adjustments. Ultimately, it was in the way of the new infrastructure imagined in the Basic plan. A spot near the brand new shopping area De Lijnbaan was more logical. Well-known architects such as Corbusier and J.J.P. Oud were not interested. The not very well-known Hungarian-American architect Marcel Breuer, gets the assignment. In the spring of 1957 the building is finished. Shortly thereafter, the statue Naum Gabo (The Tullip or The Thing) was placed. After the move to the new building in 1957 the restaurant of the old Bijenkorf from Dudok is demolished.
In the post-war years, the Lijnbaan marked a revolution in urban design. Instead of shops with homes on top next to a street, similar to Hoogstraat, the Lijnbaan was the first pedestrian shopping promenade. Lijnbaan is 12 to 18 meters wide. A lot of thought was put into the decoration of the area with plantation, sculptures, shopping windows, and aviaries. Around 2005 plans were to demolish Lijnbaan and its surrounding flats. However, because the area was assigned as an ensemble on the 19th of February 2010 by Minister Plasterk, the demolition plans were averted. Lijnbaan is currently restored to its former glory.
Since 1940 there have been talks about a concert hall that had to replace the destroyed Doelenzaal on the Coolsingel. At the opening of the new hall (designed by Kraaijvanger architects) in 1966 there was quite some critique from various architect circles about the design of the building. However, the hall’s acoustics were praised since the very beginning. The interior, one big area wherein which the halls are included as boxes, was only appreciated later. With the construction of the concert and congress buildings, the buildings around Schouwburgplein were completed. A parking garage for 800 cars was built under Schouwburgplein. A novelty for Rotterdam.
Lijnbaan apartment buildings: in 1957 skyscrapers, 40 meters high and 14 floors. The layout of the Lijnbaan, which separates shops and apartments, paved the way for a new concept of urban living: high-rise blocks arranged around green courts. The project, designed by Maaskant architects, A. Krijgsman en H.D. Bakker, was a unique collaboration between investors, contractors, architects and city authorities.
Blikman & Sartorius was an Amsterdam based company that traded in office machines and office furniture. They opened a showroom in Rotterdam in 1922. In 1950 the firm opened a branch office with showroom on Witte de Withstraat. The new building was the design of Rotterdam architect Kees Elffers. He also designed the neighbouring building Leger des Heilsgebouw, now Theater Rotterdam. In the early nineties jazz stage Thelonious moved in on the ground floor while artist hotel De With and offices filled up the spaces on the other floors. At the end of 1997 the complex was given a second life as hotel-cafe-restaurant Bazar.
Baankwartier is one of the most characteristic reconstruction areas in Rotterdam. The Brandgrens (Fire Border) runs through the area in a complex way. The new traffic flow (Basic plan) had a major impact on the area. De Schiedamse Vest lost its status as the most prominent (shopping)street because the traffic was now redirected along Leuvehaven. The reconstruction of Baankwartier started in 1942 with the construction of the Oogziekenhuis (Eye Hospital). Furthermore, the construction of City flat and Schotse Kerk. The block between Baan en Schiedamsedijk was intended for business premises.
Before the war, De Dijk was a well-known entertainment center with cafes, hotels and cinemas, where prostitution was booming. Almost the entire street was destroyed. In the ‘new’ Rotterdam there was no place for such an area. At the start of the sixties, a metrotracé was built under De Dijk.
The new Schiedamsedijk was built on only one side; a total of 96 houses, 24 shops, 2 office buildings, and 26 commercial units. The other side connected to Leuvehaven, then the center of inland shipping. The residential block is still mostly in its original state, although the context has changed quite a bit. It is now a continuous connection between Coolsingel and Erasmusbrug. On the waterfront lies the outdoor part of Maritiem Museum (Maritime Museum) and soon a brand new harbor pavilion will be added. After the war, Blaak and Rochussenstraat were directly connected as part of the Basic plan. For this to happen, the remainder of the old Bijenkorf (Willem Dudok) had to be demolished. Nowadays, the Maritime Museum and Plein 1940 with statue ‘de Verwoeste Stad’ (The Destroyed City) by Ossip Zadkine are located here.
In the early years of the reconstruction,it seemed that only banks were built (Among others: Coolsingel, Schiekade, Botersloot). Just on Blaak, three big banks were raised from the ground. This restored the pre-war image of Blaak as a bank street. The building of Incassobank, on the corner of Leuvehaven and Blaak, is designed by Kraaijvanger-architects. The main entrance in the rounded corner is clearly marked by a high portal of wall decorations by artist Nel Klaassen. The three buildings have all been given a new function. Inside Incassobank you can now find Kamer van Koophandel (Chamber of Commerce).
Special thanks to Platform Wederopbouw Rotterdam.Rotterdam City Archives / A. Groeneveld, National Archives, het Nieuwe Instituut a.o.