Foundations laid for remarkable complex in Rotterdam
This morning saw the first pile driven into the ground on Aert van Nesstraat in Rotterdam for a new building that will house two totally different institutions. The architects Jos and Leo de Jonge had originally designed a garage for the firm of Ben Maltha, with five floors of office space above. Hearing about this project, the Sint Lucia Catholic female teacher training college next door, which requires a new building, contacted the firm of contractors, resulting in the construction of a four-floor college above the garage.
De Tijd, 23 December 1955
The garage topped by a teacher training college was a remarkable and unusual combination on a remarkable and unusual site, right behind Lijnbaan. It is, incidentally, the only building in the centre with its main facade and entrance onto a service street. But there is an explanation for this.
The garage of Ben Maltha (1916‒XXXX?), a famous motorcycle racer (Dutch 350CC champion), was located on Aert van Nesstraat even before the war. After the bombardment, he moved into what remained of the Tresfon garage, which was located almost next door to the old Luxor Theatre. This building was demolished to make way for the construction of Slavenburg’s Bank on Coolsingel. Like the Tresfon building (1929), the new building would house a workshop and car park, and thus closely resemble his previous premises. Office space was planned above the garage. After the war, Ben Maltha also ran a popular shop on Meent that sold motorcycles and accessories.
The Sint Lucia complex on Aert van Nesstraat survived the bombardment, but it was too small for all education activities. Since 1897, the nuns of Sint Lucia on Coolsingel had a convent and female teacher training college, elementary secondary school, boarding school and kindergarten. The new building by architect Buskens opened in 1920 on Aert van Nesstraat, a better location for such a building than the busy Coolsingel. Sint Lucia wanted to expand, and the space above the garage was perfect.
Amid great interest, Ben Maltha has opened a new garage on Luciastraat, between Coolsingel and the Lijnbaan, with a capacity of over eighty cars. Eight large ‘overhead doors’ provide access to the premises, which are simple and functional in layout. It contains a washing area, lubrication station and showroom. Mr Maltha also hopes to use the garage during the day. He will turn it into a parking shelter, the first in Rotterdam and, as far as is known, in the Netherlands. You can leave your car here for an hour (or longer).
Het Vrije Volk, 1 November 1957
The above-mentioned Tresfon garage was of course the first car park in Rotterdam, but Ben Maltha’s new garage was the first car park in the post-war city. The combination of garage and teacher training college was remarkable of course. Even more remarkable was the fact that the architect of the garage was a Protestant, and he had to design a college for Catholics. Leo de Jonge had to be persuaded to do so by his Catholic colleague Kraaijvanger. The uncommon set-up of the building resulted in a gym on the top floor of the four-storey building and a roof garden as an alternative for the lack of an outdoor space. Special acoustic measures were also taken to prevent noise pollution in the learning spaces, with an extra-thick concrete floor and a sound-absorbent ceiling. A light well drew daylight into the garage and the corridors of the college. The recessed ground floor makes that both parts of the building are expressed. The college staircases are positioned at the ends of the side facades, so that the building stands out from the adjoining structures. The painter M.L. Maas (1924‒2005) made a mural for the gym. It is an efficient, functional college building, with spacious classrooms and a clear floor plan. Plenty of glass has been used in the facade and corridors, creating a light-filled interior.
Maltha closed his business in 1972 and sold his premises. The garage was then used by the offices of the Holbein House (located on Stadhuisplein) and has been known since as Holbein Garage. The former Sint Lucia institution was demolished in 1972, and an office complex called the Rotterdam Building was built on the site. The brown colour of this office colossus, completed in 1976, references the brick convent it replaced. Sint Lucia merged with other educational institutions in 1983, and the college eventually relocated to another site. The Comité Wederopbouw (Post-War Reconstruction Committee) campaigned for a new function. Since 1997 the building has been the headquarters of the Stichting Kunstzinnige Vorming Rotterdam (Rotterdam Foundation for Arts Education). Courses and music lessons are now offered in the classrooms. The roof garden has been converted into a canteen. A connection with the Rotterdam Building has also been made on the second floor. The building has been a national heritage site since 2010.