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First pile of Wereldhaven

During a speech by Johan Ringers on 15 April 1941 the first pile went into the ground for the Wereldhaven housing complex.

First pile of Wereldhaven
This construction is a typical example of effective work. When engineer Witteveen had completed his interesting design for the residential district to the north of Goudsesingel, where around 6000 homes will be built, he invited, with my approval, the architect Wils, whom I am glad to see here, to design the first group of 543 homes. That’s according to Johan Ringers in a speech on 15 April 1941 to mark the driving of the first pile into the ground for the Wereldhaven housing complex. Het Volk 16-4-1941
First pile of Wereldhaven

The construction sign bearing the text 'Wereldhaven'

Rotterdam City Archives
First pile of Wereldhaven

Newspaper cutting about the building.

Dagblad van Rotterdam, 18-11-1941


The complex consists of over five hundred homes, just a small portion of which (23 shops and 92 homes, were built by the Wereldhaven company. Owing to the huge advertising sign for this construction company on the complex on Goudsesingel, the complex was soon popularly referred to as Wereldhaven, and the name has stuck ever since.
Once the 16-metre-long concrete pile had been rammed swiftly into the ground, to the great interest of the many onlookers, alderman Brautigam addressed those present: “Currently under construction on this site are the first workers’ dwellings that can be considered ideal public housing, and I hope that this project marks the start of a long and flourishing period of welfare. Difficulties will be encountered, but they must drive us to work with greater commitment, although there are moments when one has the feeling that the conditions are too powerful. However, one must then call to mind those historical words that sound so apt: “and do not despair”. Het Volk 16-4-1941
First pile of Wereldhaven

Detail of the Witteveen plan from 1944, which includes the Wereldhaven scheme.

Rotterdam City Archives

Contemporaries are enthusiastic about the project

Previously, this was a densely populated neighbourhood, although it could never excel in terms of exceptional beauty. Narrow streets, buildings huddled tightly together, and poorly constructed home made living here not entirely a delight. What is now planned will be the very opposite: space, openness, plenty of green, plenty of flowers, and residential blocks arranged in such a way that every home receives sunlight in the morning and afternoon. Central areas with private gardens will not be found here. All areas planned as park may be used and enjoyed by every resident. Children can play here safely, while parents can stroll around after work. There will be no fumes from cars to spoil people’s enjoyment of the greenery and flowers. The new neighbourhood that will spring up will be unlike any other, in this country or elsewhere. De Banier 26-5-1941
First pile of Wereldhaven

Leopoldstraat photographed from the houses on Goudsesingel, c. 1946.

Rotterdam City Archives, IX 1807.00.01

Cosy homes

Despite the scarcity of materials and the cessation of construction in July 1942, the complex was built. In December 1941 the highest point was reached, in December the first shops were let, and on 21 January 1943 the first residents moved in. The Telegraaf newspaper noted:
Another important milestone has been reached in the resurrection of the city on the Maas. On Goudschesingel, in the middle of the destroyed city centre, the first family has moved into one of the new homes on Brussestraat, a name not yet unfamiliar to Rotterdammers. This is the Wouda family, now totally happy residents. They moved here from the emergency dwellings on Kanaalweg, where you can peep outside through the gaps in the wood. That’s so different in these comfortable, intimate homes, fitted with all modern conveniences: lavatory with shower, gas water heater, plenty of space, cosy rooms. A notable feature is the shared storage area located on the corner of the street, which can be used by all residents for storing bicycles and suchlike. Pleasant gardens at the front and back are maintained by the city council. An ideal neighbourhood, but for the time being people will not complain about too much hustle and bustle! Dagblad van Rotterdam 23-1-1943
First pile of Wereldhaven

The wide gallery of the residential block to Goudsesingel in 1951.

Rotterdam City Archives, GW-950
Two years after the first pile was driven into the ground, the first shop opened. Smelling of fresh bread, the shop of Van der Meer & Schoep on the provisionally paved Vondelweg was the setting for a small ceremony. It would take until 1951 before the second phase of the housing scheme was completed. The section planned on the north side of Warande was never built.
J. Wils
General Buildings