Here, at the end of Coolsingel or, if you wish, at the start of Hoogstraat, the fashion district of the new Rotterdam will emerge — that’s for certain.
Three retail buildings opened one after another in quick succession on Hoogstraat. Peek & Cloppenburg was the first to be completed on 12 March 1953. A day later, on Friday the 13th, Lampe opened. And on 6 November 1953, Martens was also ready. Lampe and P&C were located on Hoogstraat even before the war, while Martens had an outlet on Kipstraat.
The three buildings blend harmoniously with one another, which is naturally not so surprising, because all three were designed by the architects Evert and Herman Kraaijvanger. The local press recognised that unity. The facade of Lampe fashion shop blends with that of Peek & Cloppenburg in terms of rhythm, colour and scale. In turn, the building by Martens, now occupied by Blokker, blends with the latter.
A canopy attached to the building brings it to the same height as the adjacent building by Lampe. The structure is calculated, however, to support the construction of a possible full second retail floor.
Het Vrĳe Volk 16-1-1953
The three shops, together with the Vroom & Dreesman department store, also designed by the Kraaijvanger brothers, were planned to make Hoogstraat, the focus of shopping for the public, just like it used to be. The traditional facade composition and careful ornamentation make them look like buildings that aren’t progressive, but they were innovative both technically and commercially. In layout they were extremely functional, with large flexible shop spaces along Hoogstraat and delivery and service spaces to the rear. Structures and materials were also modern. For instance, the P&C and Lampe buildings feature a new type of Swedish pivot window. Study trips to department stores in England and America had encouraged the architects to develop an open-grid ceiling, allowing cables and ventilation ducts to be concealed and illumination optimised. This ceiling is applied in the V&D and Lampe buildings. The newspaper reported enthusiastically on the Lampe fashion store:
The architects E.H. Kraaijvanger and H.M. Kraaijvanger have succeeded in overcoming many technical difficulties in their desire to view the street and retail space as one entity. The ceiling and floor extend from entrance halls, past small display windows, into the retail space, drawing the viewer effortlessly inside. Display windows read more like glazed planes that, optically, do not block one’s route inside. The dark brown brick facade also continues somewhat inside. Thin glazed doors enhance the illusion of one continuous space. Heating (district heating) is positioned beneath the floor and extends to beneath the entrance halls.
Het Vrĳe Volk 11-3-1953
Visual art is subtly integrated into the facades of the three buildings. Lampe features a decorative tableau designed by Riet Bakker-Elias that “depicts the four seasons, the four animals that provide raw materials for the garment industry, and the four plants from whose fibres clothing can be produced”. There is also a hare based on the German legend of the hare Meister Lampe. Spanning the Martens facade are two bands of ceramic designed by Nel Klaassen, who also created mosaics for Peek & Cloppenburg.
The shops have been refurbished on numerous occasions and completely modernised, especially internally. The island display windows in Lampe, intended to draw shoppers inside, have been replaced by a flat facade and canopy. Peek & Cloppenburg has annexed most of the Lampe building, and the Martens building is now occupied by Blokker and Van Haren. Renovated by Hans Goverde of Kraaijvanger Urbis, it has to some extent recovered the splendour, style and solidity so typical of post-war reconstruction. The three shops are designated municipal monuments.