Splayed Apartment Blocks

Transformation 4 post war buildings with 704 apartments, Rotterdam
Private housing (2x) & public housing (2x)
Client: Woonbron, Rotterdam with Residents Panel
1999 – 2009

‘The restrained aethetics of the interventions and the solid materials reveal an examplary approach in dealing with the vast stock of post-war dwellings in general and apartments in particular.’ Olv Klijn, jury report Rotterdam Architecture Award 2010

Built in 1968, the larger part of the Ommoord residential district consists of multi-storey blocks in a park-like setting. In recent years, its demographic characteristics had changed significantly and the buildings needed an overhaul.

Many of the problems that had slowly arisen could be traced back to the design of the communal access system. The residents of the 176 dwellings in the so-called splayed apartment blocks shared two lifts and one entrance. Newer households, which had varied economic and ethnic backgrounds, were unfamiliar with the delicate codes of the older occupants, many of whom had been in residence since the blocks were first completed.

Two of the buildings were redeveloped as accommodation for elderly with a communicty centre. The accessibility of these was enhanced, and new apartments were added on the ground floor.

The remaining two blocks were to be redeveloped within the ‘customer choice’ concept (a Dutch equivalent of Right to Buy). Owing to the financial model, which allowed residents to either buy the flat outright, rent the shell of the flat and buy the interior or simply rent, the diversity of the residents was expected to be substantial. The proposal was to divide the slabs into autonomously functioning segments, each of which would have its own access system. The existing strips of gallery and balcony were broken up because it was unlikely that a long access deck would work on the commercial market. Short and clearly arranged private decks are the result. New lift shafts and emergency staircases were added to the block, articulating the main volume of the blocks. All first floor flats have their front door at ground level.

The renovation of the splayed apartment blocks was published in international magazines, including A+U, Building Design Magazine, Architectural Research Quarterly and De Architect, in books such as ‘Architecture of Consequence’ and was shown in Moskow and Sao Paula in the NAI manifestation ‘Architecture of Consequence.’ The scheme was presented at the Centre for Architecture, New York (USA) in the show ‘Social Housing, New European Projects’ and the accompanying conference.


Interview HvdH

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