Kralingen was originally a separate village and, as the expression ‘as old as the road to Kralingen’ suggests, is even older than Rotterdam. The ancient village lay to the east of the present-day district; Oud Kralingen cemetery in Prinsenland is all that remains of it. The later district was concentrated around the spot where Hoflaan and Oudedijk intersect. Kralingen was amalgamated into the city of Rotterdam in 1895. It is bordered to the south by the Nieuwe Maas and to the north by Kralingse Bos. Oostplein and Boezemsingel mark its western boundary, and the A16 motorway its eastern boundary.
Leafy versus working class
A peculiar feature of the district is that the eastern area consists of leafy avenues lined by luxury villas, while the western area, adjoining Crooswijk, consists for the most part of workers’ housing. The genteel citizenry of Kralingen mingle at society events, at the golf club and hockey club, the CHIO show jumping festival and the private Kralings Zwembad. Children here attend special schools such as the Kralingsche School and the Vrije School. The rest of Kralingen has to make do with Kralingse Bos and the Oostelijk Zwembad. Both sections of the population came together on the shopping streets, Oudedijk and Lusthofstraat, at Excelsior football club and at the public Libanon Lyceum. Since the arrival of the Erasmus University in Woudestein, the neighbourhood has been home to a relatively large student population, which gathers in the cafés along Oostzeedijk and in the student societies.
In the early twentieth century Kralingen was home to two large utilitarian sites. Nobody complained about the waterworks built around a water tower, but the gas factory dominated the district. Pipelines ran from Oostzeedijk to Oude Dijk and there were huge gasometers. The city operated the gas factory from 1884 to 1926. The gasometers remained in use as storage containers for a long time, with the last two demolished in 1972.
Maasstation, with a rail connection to Gouda, was located on ’s Landswerf, its site now occupied by three blocks of flats. In 1953 it shut for good because of the new route from Centraal Station and Station Noord. Maasstation was demolished and the tracks removed and replaced by the new Maasboulevard, which connected with the Van Brienenoord Bridge in 1965. Apartment complexes also appeared further along Maasboulevard, but the planned demolition of the housing on Oostmaaslaan was not carried out.
That’s how Kralingen will be!
Do you remember it? Kralingen before the war, which still exuded a certain air of distinction, even though three-quarters of its area consisted of sombre, joyless residential blocks, separated from one another by narrow, gloomy streets? The outrageous bombardment of May 1940 caused the vast majority of this sorry neighbourhood to burn to the ground, thereby executing an unsolicited and undesirable sentence on a wretched piece of nineteenth-century public housing. No fewer than 5663 homes and 229 companies, 17 schools, 20 garages, 418 shops and 18 cafés in Kralingen fell victim to the fire that raged. The new Kralingen, the development plan for which has been determined, will put a definitive end to speculative housing politics, which have heartlessly sacrificed housing for the less fortunate to the interests of home ownership. The new Kralingen will feature open development grouped around generous public gardens, part of a green zone that will connect Kralingerhout with the heart of the future city.
High requirements for Rotterdam housing
Het Vrĳe Volk of 2 March 1946 looks forward enthusiastically – from a socialist viewpoint – to the reconstruction of Kralingen. As was the case in the area around Goudsesingel, the bombardment had destroyed many poor-quality homes, and post-war reconstruction offered an opportunity to apply modern architectural and urban design principles. During the war years, modern architects such as Van Tijen and Van den Broek, along with some younger colleagues (Maaskant, Bakema, Groosman), researched the layout of the new residential neighbourhoods. A sort of blueprint for post-war housing was published in a 1941 report entitled Woonmogelijkheden in het Nieuwe Rotterdam (‘Housing Possibilities in the New Rotterdam’). The Department of Public Housing and the Advice Bureau for the Rotterdam City Plan (ASRO) were unhappy with the housing on Goudsesingel in terms of orientation and floor plans. A new Kralingen Building Code set higher requirements with respect to minimum dimensions, and all sorts of additional requirements were set for the layout and detailing of the building blocks.
Most homes were built in four-level blocks arranged around collective courtyards. Pitched roofs were compulsory, as was brickwork – something that modern-leaning architects like Van Tijen and Van den Broek reluctantly accepted. An important element in the new district was a central green strip between Warande and Lusthofstraat. Orientated perpendicular to this was Willem Ruyslaan, a new main route between Oudedijk and Maasboulevard. Incidentally, most new streets were named after resistance heroes; besides Willem Ruys, they included Chris Bennekers, Robert Baelde and Marinus van der Stoep.
Along its northern edge, the green strip is bounded by a continuous wall, and the development blends with the existing development around the half-destroyed Weteringstraat. Stand-out buildings are located to the east, including the housing for the elderly on Hofje van Gerrit de Koker and two schools. A traditionalist structure is the school for the Advisory Bureau for Autogenous Welding Technology by A. Claus on Noordeinde (1950-1952).
To the south, new buildings were woven between surviving structures. The pre-war green strip of Nieuwe Plantage and a Jewish cemetery were sacrificed as a result. Here, too, the preference was for housing blocks around courtyards, though there were exceptions. For example, Beneden Oostzeedijk, where a separate residential building for singles was built and, on the green strip, ‘De Plantage’ high-rise residential building. The combination of shops and homes in a comb-shaped complex on Beneden Oostzeedijk deviates from the pattern.
Located behind Slaak are three small strip buildings, with shallow lean-to roofs and concrete structures. Designed by R.D. van Andel and S.J. van Embden, these three-floor blocks feature shared staircases; two blocks contain 24 and one block 30 flats. The flats have south-facing balconies and a shared garden. Decorative concrete panels adorn two of the blocks.
The new residential areas reserved no space for commercial or industrial development. Offices and company buildings were concentred around the water of Boerengat and Buizengat inner harbours. During the war, a start was made on the construction of the first Industriegebouw by Maaskant and Van Tijen. However, a sweeping renovation left nothing of the original architecture intact; stucco and PVC frames have completely ruined the facade. An exception was made for Het Vrije Volk newspaper building. The offices and printing works were rebuilt on the same site as before the war, when the newspaper was called Voorwaarts (‘Forward’).
In the strip between Oostplein, Slaak and Boezemweg there was also space for stand-out structures. The Oostelijk Zwembad, which, like the Sportfondsenbad, occupied a courtyard, was extended in 1952 with a new entrance wing by architect Lockhorst, a fine example of post-war reconstruction architecture. The swimming pool dates from the 1930s and is a national monument. Located behind the pool is the Catholic Household and Industry School by the Kraaijvangers (1951-1955). Boezemweg was chosen as the site for the Nieuwe Oosterkerk by B. van Heyningen and B. Uyterlinde (1949-1951) and a Catholic school building by the architects Margry and Jacobs (1953-1958).
That part of Kralingen not hit by the bombardment also contains some post-war reconstruction architecture. Various modern villas were built here even before the war, among them the celebrated residence of Van Nelle director Van der Leeuw at Kralingse Plaslaan 38. Just down the road, at Kralingseweg 179, architect Jo van den Broek built Ypenhof, his uncompromisingly modern villa, now a national monument. Completely hidden from the outside world at number 185 is Villa Veder (1957-1959) by Hugh Maaskant. A small cluster of modern bungalows was also built on the site of an old dumpsite, with as highlight at number 187 the house of Herman Haan (1951-1953). A super-modern house, with a fully glazed living area, which has since been damaged by alterations. Architect Boks also built a home for himself here.
Herman Bakker built a house for himself at 's-Gravenweg 127 in 1954. An odd one out is the residence built in 1941 for Gillet, a member of the Dutch Nazis, at 's-Gravenweg 145. The design by C. Elffers is replete with Germanic symbolism. Interior architect Wim den Boon in 1962 designed a Corbusian residence at 's-Gravenwetering 49, now a municipal monument.
Housing in the more expensive market segment includes the Kralingerhoutflat by Herman Bakker (1957-1959) and the building on Louise de Colignylaan by C. Slob (1955-1958). The Th.W. Termaatstichting old-age home by architect E. van der Ree (Kuiper, Gouwetor, De Ranitz) of 1961 also belongs to this category.
After various locations (Blijdorp, Oude Westen) had been rejected, Woudestein was selected as the site for the Erasmus University. The complex, designed by C. Elffers in collaboration with A. van der Heyden, C. Hoogeveen and P. van der Laan, was built between 1963 and 1970. The brutalist lecture theatre building, the buildings around the patio and the high-rise structure are splendid works of post-war reconstruction architecture and now also municipal monuments.
The evolution into a university town city gained further momentum with the construction of student housing and society buildings. The complex of student flats on Haringvliet (just outside the district of Kralingen) was completed in 1965. The Laurentius Society on Infirmeriestraat occupied the former premises of the pharmaceutical wholesale firm J.H. Rooster, designed by architects Meischke and Schmidt (1941-1947). In 1969 the Rotterdam Student Corps added the Hermes Society, designed by Van den Broek en Bakema.
In 1961, as a gift of reconciliation for the German bombardment of Rotterdam, the German Evangelical Church offered to build an ecumenical centre. The building, located along the embankment of the Maasboulevard, was designed by the architecture firm Rietveld Van Dillen Van Tricht. Neither Gerrit Rietveld nor Joan van Dillen, who died in 1964 and 1966 respectively, witnessed the completion of the building; it is therefore largely the work of Van Tricht. From 1992 on, the building housed a learning centre of the Erasmus University. Since 2009 it has been occupied by a freemason lodge and the Podium aan de Maas (Podium O 950) culture and congress centre. It is also a municipal monument.
The headquarters of the Adriaan Volker dredging company was built at the end of Oostmaslaan between 1970 and 1973. The first design by Maaskant dates from 1968, but the completed building is a radically prefabricated design that was more the work of Post65 architecture.
Urban renewal in Kralingen began in 1980. The nineteenth-century development was tackled first, but post-war buildings followed shortly afterwards. The central green strip along Gerdesiaweg was sacrificed – not without protests – and turned into a site for new development. Owing to increasing standards of thermal insulation, many post-war residential blocks were fitted with insulation and finished in stucco or the then-popular Trespa panels. Timber and steel frames were replaced by PVC. A block of homes by architect Van Tijen in the Vlinderbuurt neighbourhood was in such poor condition that renovation was deemed too expensive and thus it was largely demolished. The adjoining development turned out to be situated on land polluted by the former Municipal Gasworks and also had to be demolished. The demolition of some pre-war blocks, decontamination of the soil and construction of new development resulted in a unique new enclave.
Offices and companies had traditionally been concentrated in the area around Boerengat and Buizengat. A lot of new development, housing in particular, appeared here. The former site of the municipal waterworks around the water tower was transformed into a new residential area, with the existing buildings and reservoirs preserved.
The period of urban renewal, which focused for the most part on the construction of affordable housing of good quality for low-income groups, now lies behind us. Market parties now take the lead in the neoliberal era. Kralingen is an attractive residential area close to the city centre and therefore popular as a location for new housing developments aimed at affluent young families. In Jaffa the urban renewal development has already been demolished and replaced by retro architecture. Similar plans also exist for the post-war blocks. The structures renovated with Trespa and stuccowork have seen better days. The renovation of the complex of homes and shops on Beneden Oostzeedijk and Slaakhuys shows that renovation can be successful. But the impulse to demolish and redevelop that always dominates in Rotterdam holds little promise of anything good.