A youth society like a ‘cave’, where Princess Beatrix visits a café on Saturday afternoon; a hall for around three-hundred people, where the Princess will watch a cabaret; also spaces for expression and exhibitions, for sports, games and meetings, a library and a sunny roof terrace, high above the roofs of Rotterdam, yet still low compared to the old spire of the Laurenskerk.
That is the new CHJ building called De Heuvel, next to the Laurenskerk — ideal on account of its central location in the city, also ideal on account of the connection between the Centrale Hervormde Jeugdraad (Central Protestant Youth Council) with this old church in particular, the restoration of which is of such symbolic importance for Rotterdam.
Het Vrije Volk 21-05-1959
On 23 May 1959 De Heuvel was festively opened by Princess Beatrix, who arrived at Grotekerkplein by boat. De Heuvel was an initiative by the Centrale Hervormde Jeugdraad (CHJ), an organisation that offered spiritual and social training to secondary level pupils, students and working youths. The liberal and open organisation initially made use of De Heuvel, a mansion located in the Park. Youth services were also offered in the Stock Exchange. The CHJ had to vacate De Heuvel, however, in the lead-up to the E55 event. In consultation with the Department of City Development, the perfect site was found at Grotekerkplein, centrally located and close to the Laurenskerk. But where did the three hundred thousand guilders for the building come from? Doing odd jobs, the hundreds of youths managed to raise over eleven thousand guilders. A war-damage compensation package and various funds and donations raised enough money for the new building. The CHJ moved temporarily into two building huts in front of the Laurenskerk. The first pile was driven into the ground on 23 November 1957, for the building designed by the recently graduated architect Kees Hoogeveen (1928). The festive opening on 23 May 1959 even made the Polygon newsreel.
The liberal and open organisation initially made use of De Heuvel, a mansion located in the Park.
Two symbolic moments occurred around the time of the opening. On 19 May 1959, Opbouwdag (‘Construction Day’), a stone from the rubble of the Laurenskerk was built into the new structure, together with a lead tube containing construction drawings. On 23 May 1959 the first Laurens Medal was awarded in honour of the people who devote themselves to the spiritual values of society.
Not too brutal
De Heuvel is a real post-war reconstruction building, but on account of its proximity to the Laurenskerk, the architect did not make it too brutal. Rectilinear in shape, it features a skeleton of reinforced concrete, allowing the three levels to be freely arranged in plan. The concrete skeleton protrudes through the roof to form a pergola. The facade is set back on the ground floor. Horizontal strips of fenestration across the full length of the facade are set in steel frames. The facade is faced with artificial stone panels. A distinctive feature is the glass-in-concrete window with an almost abstract figure of Christ by Ger van Iersel (1922) in the chapel. Van Iersel also made the concrete-stained window in the now-demolished Pauluskerk.
Jazz society B14
De Heuvel hosted a wide range of activities. Youths could enjoy a coffee and a chat here after services at the Laurenskerk. From 1960 on this was also the home base of the illustrious B14 jazz society, where the Rotterdam scene converged. Poet Jules Deelder debuted in B14’s stencilled monthly magazine. In the 1960s, pop concerts were also organised under the name B15, featuring groups such as The Outsiders and The Golden Earrings. Exhibitions and musicals also took place, and for some time the Rotterdam Conservatory occupied the third floor. In the 1970s De Heuvel evolved from a cultural and religious meeting place into a welfare centre for young people. In the 1980s De Heuvel became a gathering place for left-wing action groups, volunteer associations and migrant organisations.
From 1960 on this was also the home base of the illustrious B14 jazz society, where the Rotterdam scene converged.
De Heuvel is a designated municipal monument. It houses various welfare organisations. The building was renovated by LG Ontwerp en Realisatie in 2014. To mark its fiftieth anniversary, it published a book entitled De Heuvel. Een heel Rotterdams gebouw 1959-2009, written by former CHJ member Carin Gaemers.