The change of address of KAAN Architecten marks a new chapter for the rapidly growing Dutch studio. The new headquarters in the heart of Rotterdam is located on the banks of the Meuse River, near the Erasmus Bridge, an icon of the city, and the award-winning Education Center of the Medical Center of Erasmus University, designed by KAAN.
The project involved the transformation of 1400 square meters of the former spaces of the Nederlandsche Bank to make the new headquarters of KAAN Architecten, with room for a staff of over 80 persons. Hence the nickname “De Bank” for the new space, on the second floor of an elegant historical building designed by Henri Timo Zwiers in 1950-55, over the remains of a synagogue that was bombed during World War II.
The brick facade on Boompjes street stands out amidst the buildings facing the river. From the front, one reaches a hall enhanced by a mosaic by the Dutch artist Louis van Roode, who decorated a number of public spaces in Rotterdam after the war.
The architect Dikkie Scipio, who with Kees Kaan and Vincent Panhuysen guides the studio, explains: “The concept of sharing of knowledge lies behind the layout of the spaces, and it was fundamental throughout the development of the project. This space, which might seem rather brutal in some respects, has a certain edge thanks to its industrial aesthetic that is monumental at the same time, an intrinsic beauty we have decided to bring out through the combination of two simple materials: wood and concrete.”
The particular character of the building and its large, luminous spaces provided an excellent starting point, but the core of the design is an ample open space set aside for the architects, filled with natural light from both sides, with an extraordinary view of the riverfront.
The rectangular plan, with its clear proportions, has been created to effectively connect work areas and spaces for gatherings and relaxation, through long corridors and monumental passages that make circulation very fluid, encouraging interaction between staff, visitors and partners.
The space is paced by the carefully renovated industrial structure in concrete, whose ‘brutality’ is balanced out by the elegant use of walnut wood, one of the main ingredients of the interiors. The new workspace of KAAN Architecten is an apt representation of the firm’s philosophy, as underlined by Kees Kaan himself: “The building is in line with our work. Outside it is very discreet, but without sacrificing a strong identity, a formal and aesthetic dignity that transcend the ordinary.” The project has also revealed the hidden beauty of a building that had been overlooked for many years.
by Laura Ragazzola – Photos Simone Bossi