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Van Nelle, Rotterdam

Van Nelle Design Factory office building, Rotterdam-Overschie (2004)

Renovation and redevelopment of the offices of the former Van Nelle factory

Designed by Brinkman & Van der Vlugt architects and built in 1929, the Van Nelle factory was included on the Unesco List of World Heritage Sites on 21 July 2014 (see Van Nelle Unesco-werelderfgoed). The factory complex with its steel-framed glass curtain walls is one of the great icons of early modern architecture. The complex comprises a curved office building, and factories for coffee, tea and tobacco connected to a distribution building by conveyor belts. As part of a plan to transform it into the Van Nelle Design Factory, renovation and restoration started in 1999. In 2004, we were awarded the task of renovating and modernizing the office building and its interior spaces.

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Originally, a large ground floor open-plan office gave immediate access to the boardrooms in the mezzanine above. The first floor housed the trading offices and a laboratory, and the second floor a canteen. Our redevelopment plan was based on maintaining all these spaces, not only because of the majestic spaciousness of the open-plan area and double-height space, but also because of the perfect way it fitted the concept of the Van Nelle Design Factory: to house various users without affecting the original character of the building. We achieved this by retaining the original layout, which was plainly suited for rentals to one or more tenant. We installed modern fire-prevention and safety facilities, and renewed or extended not only the sanitary facilities, but also the heating, lighting and window blinds, adapting them all to the original atmosphere and intention/setup. We made additional designs for a reception desk and the sanitary groups. The interior finish was reconstructed using the original colours and materials: glass screens in the typical Van Nelle blue in the waiting area, and red handrails and coloured rubber floors in the stairwells.

Project information


cv Van Nelle Ontwerpfabriek


Van Nelleweg 1, Rotterdam-Overschie


2005-2006 ©​Molenaar & Van Winden architecten

completed at

Kondor Wessels, Amsterdam

photography by

Fas Keuzenkamp