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Great things endure

Joost Prins and Tjeerd Hendriks explain their plan to restore the architecture of Maaskant’s multi-tenant building and breathe new life into the landmark.

Great things endure

Welcome to the Industriegebouw on Goudsesingel

The hall of Het Industriegebouw on Goudsesingel is furnished in a light and modestly elegant style. A friendly receptionist sits in front of a huge black-and-white photograph from the 1960s. The sturdy spiral staircase by the building’s architect, Hugh Maaskant, invites you to walk upstairs. A matching console with search screen informs you what companies occupy space in the building. Joost walks past and touches the screen, returning it to the home page. One thing is clear: details matter here. We can go up.

A Busy Duo

The soothing sound of the Tindersticks meet us as we reach the top floor of Het Industriegebouw. The office of Joost and Tjeerd is sparsely furnished: two desks, a sofa, two chairs and a hat stand. But nothing is as it seems, for the two men are busy. Their temporary office is rented to someone else, so they’ll soon have to relocate within the building again. Their phones rings in turn as they continue the interview between calls. “Sorry, we’re in the middle of a job interview process,” Joost laughs. “So it’s quite funny to do an interview like this.” Luckily, they complement each other perfectly, in words as well as in business. Because, as becomes clear, they’ve lots to arrange.

Hottest multi-tenant building

Joost Prins and Tjeerd Hendriks are the brains behind the successful Rotterdam shop GROOS. Joost, with his background in law and business administration, and Tjeerd, an artist, turned out to be a golden duo when setting up a Rotterdam concept store. In 2015 these young creative entrepreneurs were invited to think about running ‘Het Industriegebouw’, a post-war reconstruction landmark. “We thought it was a nice challenge, next to GROOS. So we made a proposal for the redevelopment, and now we’re implementing that.” Tjeerd says it as though it cost no effort at all. Joost continues: “The new owner of the building wanted to leave something tangible behind. Our aim is to restore this historic structure to its former glory and make it the hottest multi-tenant venue in Rotterdam.”

Revealing the invisible beauty

It’s clear that Joost and Tjeerd have embraced that challenge with total commitment. They started by removing everything that had been added to the building over the years. “Look what appeared from beneath those carpet tiles! Wonderful wooden floors. This building is filled with hidden beauty.” Joost’s eyes light up as he talks about the building. Tjeerd stands on a chair to show what’s concealed behind the suspended ceiling. “So much space, isn’t there? All we have to do is remove the ceiling.” Of course it’s not just a matter of stripping things away. The floors have to be fitted out for small businesses occupying individual units or co-working spaces. To give the spaces an appropriate feel and quality, they have enlisted the help of designer Piet Hein Eek.

A community inside a fort

“The building’s identity is important. That influences the choice of materials and furnishing, and the choice of tenants. We’re always critical,” says Joost sternly. “Our goal is a multi-tenant building where various enterprises can mutually enhance one another. The power of diversity.” Tjeerd adds: “So no backward-looking companies. This has to be a palace populated by pioneers from Rotterdam.”

Such a building calls for certain facilities. Joost and Tjeerd want cafés and restaurants on the ground floor, but the relevant permits still have to be obtained. And they have ideas for a company canteen, a bike shed and showers. “If you cycle all the way from Delft,” explains Tjeerd, “it’s fine if you can take a shower.” They envisage the building as a sort of fort, with a community of its own. The passionate way they discuss their plans betrays their love for both the building and the city.

Reappraisal of post-war architecture

Joost explains that he was born on Schiekade, and that he saw the city mature as he himself grew up. “There was a time when you had to defend yourself if you said you lived in Rotterdam. In the 1980s there was no skyline. It’s as though the city grew up at the same time as I did. And the great thing is that the real junk gets demolished, while good architecture is preserved! Like this building.” Tjeerd also grew up nearby, in Zwijndrecht, and has noticed the reappraisal of architecture from the post-war period. “For years I thought that some buildings and works of art were ugly. ‘What a mess,’ I thought. But as things were refurbished I changed my view. The great thing about the post-war rebuilding period is that everybody could take part.” Joost agrees. “Post-war architecture was ignored for a long time, but the style is back in fashion now. Honest. Direct.” And Tjeerd adds: “Industrial. Spacious.” They nod.

On the right road

There is still a long way to go, but they are on the right road. The goal is to restore Het Industriegebouw to its original condition as much as possible and reveal the original architecture again. Tjeerd: “Over the years the previous owners filled the place with carpet tiles, partition systems and suspended ceilings. We’re removing all of that.” Officials from the city’s department of historic buildings have also noticed the meticulous way the two are tackling the project. This became clear during a visit when Joost and Tjeerd showed them old photographs and drawings from the building’s safe, which they had never seen before. They were positively taken aback. Joost laughs: “It sounds simple, but take away everything that wasn’t original and you’re left with the brilliance of Maaskant. What more could a person from Rotterdam want?”

The story of
Joost Prins en Tjeerd Hendriks (foto Gaby Jongenelen)