Achterhaven, 37 city houses in Historic Delfshaven, Rotterdam

8.000 m2 – 37 city houses 125 – 150 m2 and a 50 car parking garage

Completed in 2012
Client: Woonbron
Location: Rotterdam, The Netherlands

 

The project fits a modern neighbourhood seamlessly in a historic urban context. We took an urban approach towards the historic instead of an architectural. The urban structure of Delft stood model for the plan. (Delfshaven was traditionally the port city of Delft.) The urban fabric of squares and alleys integrates the project seamlessly in the surrounding context. The resulting urban space is surprising and transparent. The alleys offer glimpses towards the historic monuments opposite the harbour and create a small scale pedestrian friendly area.

Housing association Woonbron asked us to join the competition for the redevelopment of a small neighborhood block on the border between the valued monumental Historic Delfshaven and the socially challenged neighborhood Delfshaven. Woonbron set out to attract new target groups to the area as part of their social responsibility to strengthen neighborhoods. 54 social apartments were going to be replaced by (about) 35 free market dwellings. This type of development for the free market by housing associations in The Netherlands has been under fire since the bank-crisis of 2008 that hit the construction sector hard. Just in this period the commission for the project came about and it turned out to be one of the last private developments carried out by Woonbron of that period, as it was completed in 2012.

‘Nolli’ map of Historic Delfshaven, including the project

Following a trend of romancing neighborhoods from one or more centuries ago, Woonbron’s brief for the assignment had a strong emphasis on making a relation with the atmosphere of canals, quays and canal houses at the other side of the water of the Achterhaven, the atmosphere of Historic Delfshaven. We asked ourselves if the sole recreation of the image of Historic Delfshaven would do justice to the neighboring blocks and streets and to the demands of contemporary urban house owners. We decided that the cost efficient reproduction of old facades doesn’t lead to a good integration of new and old, since nowadays the required time, energy and craftsmanship is hardly ever put into good quality recreation of the typical canal house facades of the dutch golden era.

Instead, the urban structure of Delft stood model for the plan. (Delfshaven was traditionally the port city of Delft.) It is characterized by its many alleys, courts, squares and quays and the mixed program in the buildings. On one street private houses and offices are neighbored by public functions like restaurants and bars, churches and galleries, etc.. Crimson Architecture Historians once made a graphic map of the public/private division in Historic Delfshaven as a reference to the famous map of Rome’s out- and indoor public spaces made by Giambattista Nolli. Crimson’s map showed a large summed up area of public access, both outside and inside buildings. We then extended that map to the rest of Delfshaven and showed how different the situation is at the large closed housing blocks in the area around our project site. In those blocks the public space stops dead at the front door, the inner courtyards are filled with private gardens only accessible for tenants and the streets are spaces meant only to move through, not to stay about. By importing the urban fabric of Historic Delfshaven onto the project site we made our proposal independent from the architecture of the buildings themselves.  

block divided by two alleys and two squares: 9 blocks with 4 corner houses

The blocks formed by the streets and squares are built of four quadrant houses: corner houses with a roof terrace. The entrances are in the alleys. The alley facades are bright white, with a distinct materialization and large windows. This makes the alleys into pleasant outdoor spaces. The alleys lead to the squares. These squares are above street level and will be semi-public in use. Each house has a privately owned terrace as part of the square. The facades at the squares are made of a sturdy red brick and wooden frames.

The urban fabric of squares and alleys integrates the project seamlessly in the surrounding context. The resulting urban space is surprising and transparent. The alleys offer glimpses towards the historic monuments opposite the harbour and create a small scale pedestrian friendly area. 

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Gaby van den Boom at the construction site

 

shortlisted for the Rotterdam Architecture Prize 2012

Completed in 2012
Design team: Henk Bultstra, Bert Karel Deuten, Jaakko van ‘t Spijker,
Gaby van den Boom, Ruud van Duuren, Ebami Tom, Gabriel Pena
Client: Woonbron, Rotterdam
Structural engineer: Put b.v., Rotterdam
Building physics: Nieman b.v., Utrecht
Installations advise: Schreuder Groep b.v., Alkmaar
Restauration Architect: Walraad Architecten, Utrecht
Contractor: Martens Aanneembedrijf, Lekkerkerk

Photographs: Ruben Dario Kleimeer