A 1930s-era post office in Rotterdam is nothing if not a survivor.
And now it’s about to become the harbinger of a thriving inner city.
Built as part of a three-piece complex that included a world trade center and a city hall, they all escaped shock-treatment bombing by Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe in May, 1940.
That was no accident. “They wanted the files of existing tenants through the post office and city hall to track the Jewish people, and to keep the world trade center as a base camp,” says architect Eran Chen, executive director of New York-based ODA.
Chan should know. He’s been commuting to Rotterdam from New York twice a month for two years in pursuit of that post office. And his firm just won a competition – triumphing over BIG and Daniel Libeskind – to build a 150-meter tower atop the building that’s stood empty for the past 12 years.
Within 24 months, a mixed use development by Omnam Investment Group will be in full swing, with retail and restaurants at its base, a Kimpton Hotel above and residences soaring atop it all.
There have been other proposals to develop it in the past, but all came to naught, until Omnam and ODA stepped up. “We came up with a scheme that was satisfactory for all parties – something that would constitute a vibrant space for the entire building,” he says. “We built a case around the idea of avoiding blocking the service courtyard. We said: ‘Let’s maintain it’ – and they loved the idea.”
The footprint of the tower echoes the footprint of the great hall. “Look at the plan of the great hall and the open space surrounded by a double colonnade,” he says. “Our tower footprint is almost identical – the verticality matches the exact five meters of the rhythm of the pillars of the post office.”
Moreover, the architect eschewed glass and steel in favor of stone, to match the original façade. “It’s a typology that relates to the past but acts as a vertical village,” he says. “We see a future of vertical living in cities.”
In Rotterdam, that’ll be a cinch soon enough – with 24/7 living in a vibrant downtown.
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Renderings by Forbes Massie