Cut from the same cloth...

Wednesday 09 Oct 2013

Dutch practice saves forgotten former factory and transforms it into creative offices

Mei architecten en stedenbouwers recently completed De Fabriek in Rotterdam, a monumental factory regenerated into a dynamic place for young, creative businesses. In the heart of bustling Delfshaven on the banks of the River Schie is an old characteristic industrial complex which has lost a lot of its lustre and vibrancy over the course of the years.

Over many years of vacancy and neglect, a cluster of buildings on the waterside has begun to deteriorate. The exterior of the former steam laundry has two distinctive faces; on the street side, a series of traditional houses, and on the River Schie-side a factory-look including a big masonry chimney.

The collaboration of the involved parties (including Grontmij and Pieters Bouwtechniek) tried to preserve this monumental complex. The building needed a radical change to become a central place for the creative industries in which young, small businesses and self-employed persons who had outgrown their home studios may establish their own offices.

The strategic design of Mei architecten is based on the preservation of the still existing aesthetic, cultural, historical and constructive quality, whereas the collapsed and dilapidated areas are replaced by an atrium adding spatial (light, air and space) and programmatic quality. The atrium forms the 'heart' of the building as a meeting place for entrepreneurs, including collective elements such as lounges, meeting places and pantries.

The levelled business units gather around the atrium and make use of the existing characteristic façade openings. The additions that are made, such as the steel structure in the atrium, are minimalistic and possess a uniform colour palette to maintain the spatial quality. Bronze facades, which fit into the streetscape, reveal the new addition. The atrium is topped by an industrial rooflight to complete the renovation of De Fabriek.

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