What a contrast between the large modern building faced in white Kirchheimer limestone and the Oude Noorden district behind it! The huge structure has been built on Heer Bokelweg in the Zomerhof District.
It was originally designed as a multi-tenant building for small industries that had previously been housed in temporary structures in the area. However, this plan was dropped on account of the drastic increase in construction costs since the plan was launched in 1959. The idea now is to house ten large offices in the building, among them probably, subject to approval by the city council, a number of municipal departments. In addition, the Voormolen contracting firm that built the structure hopes to move from its current address on Westersingel into the new building on Heer Bokelweg in early 1968.
Het Vrĳe Volk, 28 September 1967
The post-war Basis Plan for the centre of Rotterdam earmarked Heer Bokelweg as a main access route into the new city from the north-east; an entrance between ‘gateways’ like the Shell building and the Schieblok to the renewed Hofplein and Coolsingel. Heer Bokelweg later became the connection between Schiekade and the Rotte Tracé, a wide road from the centre to the motorway to Utrecht. The Katshoek building was the first structure built on this new and wide city boulevard. After completion of the building the widening was extended on the north side, including an unsophisticated gap punched in the Hofbogen viaduct. But the changing insights of the early 1990s are visible on the southern side in the narrowing of the street with the construction of the Scala apartment complex beside the RAC garage, which today houses the city archives.
The sturdy seven-floor concrete-frame building is designed as a multi-tenant building, but it differs considerably in both layout and architecture from Maaskant’s other multi-tenant buildings such as the Industriegebouw, Groothandelsgebouw and Verzamelgebouw Zuidplein. According to Maaskant expert Michelle Provoost, this is an atypical work for Maaskant. “Especially the facade, which is very flat. You don’t see that very often in Maaskant’s buildings. The facades of his buildings are usually very expressive.”
The exterior is indeed fairly flat, with sleek bands of fenestration in aluminium profiles and stone cladding. The interior and the columns along the lower volume on Almondestraat are finished in bush-hammered concrete, a technique used to leave the concrete surface rough. The use of luxury materials gives the building a strongly representative feel. The floors of the two halls of the main staircases and of the shopping gallery are finished in Jura stone. The walls of the halls and the ground-floor columns feature exposed concrete adorned with a relief, while the entrances to the staff lifts are finished in white anodized aluminium.
The angle on the front facade is elegantly highlighted by the stone bands that continue as a vertical series of balconies.
Clearing the way for cars
The widening of Heer Bokelweg cleared the way for cars, but the building facilitates cars in other ways too. A car park for 250 vehicles was built behind the building and was directly connected to the office volume. In addition, an Aral petrol station was built on the triangular site between Heer Bokelweg and Almondestraat. And so the number of petrol stations within a 100-metre radius came to three!
Art plays an important role in the building. The facade features an entrance relief by André Volten (1925-2002), one of the best-known abstract sculptors of the post-war period, whom Maaskant frequently worked with. The piece (Untitled, 1968) is a facade element with circular segments. The lines of the architecture are repeated in the work and distorted to form a new image. It was originally made of stainless steel and stone, but during renovation it was painted black along with the columns, ruining the effect. An art event was held in the entrance hall to mark the opening of the building in 1968.
Until 21 December, the ground floor of the new Katshoek office building in Rotterdam is the venue for an exhibition that is as unusual as it is striking. At the invitation of Voormolen, the contractors responsible for building Katshoek, sixteen artists were given an opportunity to express themselves creatively with all sorts of construction materials.
Het Parool, 14 December 1968
It was, according to organizer Bob Bonies, a remarkable project:
“After all those exhibitions, which always consisted of the finest possible arrangement of existing works, I wanted to try another approach. I proposed inviting a number of Dutch artists to create their contribution inside that wonderful space by using construction materials supplied by Voormolen. Including engines, blowers and the like. And with the help of skilled workmen from Voormolen. It was an expensive project, but I immediately received full cooperation.
I chose sixteen artists: the cool guys Dekkers, Manders, Koetsier, Struycken and myself, Boezem, Dibbets and Van Elk with their micro-emotive art, the kinetic artist Staakman, Eikelenboom with his utopian situations, Rous, who makes a sort of minimal art, André Volten, Paul Schuitema with his colour scheme and his alphabet and the Slothouber-Graatsma team from the Cubic Construction Centre. And Gribling with his space structures.”
Het Parool, 21 December 1968
The building housed the offices of Robeco, Procter & Gamble Benelux and a number of municipal departments. Owing to its out-of-the-way location, the building later fell out of favour. The current tenants are OMA and Havensteder.