The Lijnbaan, the daring shopping gallery close to Coolsingel in Rotterdam, will be cast in shadow in early 1957 by gigantic residential blocks: skyscrapers of 40 metres in height, containing 14 floors of apartments. This extensive residential complex, expected to cost 20 million guilders, will comprise 847 dwellings, 75 shops and 97 garages. Large green courts between the blocks will allow the children of residents to play to their heart’s content, without any bother from the busy traffic in the city centre. This giant housing complex can accommodate both large and small families.
De Telegraaf, 8 October 1954
‘Skyscrapers’ in the city
The layout of the Lijnbaan, which separates shops and apartments, paved the way for a new concept of urban living: high-rise blocks arranged around green courts. Not that the concept was entirely new, because shortly before the war, Jan Wils had drawn up a plan for the site of the old zoo, with similar apartment blocks set in green surroundings. But the combination of a shopping centre with half-open courts was new and uncommon in a city centre. There were in fact just two courts: Joost Banckertsplaats and Jan Evertsenplaats. The third slab of apartments on Kruiskade does not overlook a green court. Nor does the fourth block, 13 floors tall, only completed in 1969 when the Lijnbaan was extended. Its gallery side does overlook Jan Evertsenplaats. A fifth slab of apartments that completes the Lijnbaan ensemble stands somewhat further away, near the railway post office.
At 4 o’clock last Wednesday afternoon, urban designer C. van Traa, director of the Department of City Development, lit a fresh cigar in a tent on the construction site between Karel Doormanstraat and the rear side of the Lijnbaan. He listened, seemingly impassively, to a number of speeches. His feet firmly planted on the ground in Rotterdam, he stood silently amidst city officials, heads of large building contractors, directors of powerful investment companies, architects, heads of city departments. This was his day, the day the first pile of the apartment blocks around the Lijnbaan sank into the ground. Thanks to his driving force and the unique collaboration between investors, contractors, architects and city authorities, these monumental buildings will add an exciting skyline to the city in a few years.
Het Vrije Volk, 16 June 1955
A total of 850 apartments were built in what today would hardly be called high-rise. The clients were pension funds and investors, among them the Philips pension fund and Olveh life assurance company.
Positioned perpendicular to each other around the green courts of Joost Banckertplaats and Jan Evertsenplaats were two buildings of thirteen and nine floors. A low-rise building containing shops topped by two floors of apartments closed the court to Karel Doormanstraat. The fourth side of the court was left unbuilt, as the space was not intended for the residents only but for everybody in the city centre. The apartment blocks overlooking Joost Banckertsplaats were named after the clients, as we see from the advertising letters on the roof: Olvehflat and Nillmijflat. The 13-floor slab on the edge of the Lijnbaan ensemble on Kruiskade was named City House.
Architect Maaskant supervised construction of the blocks, which were detailed by various architects. Maaskant himself designed the Cityflat and the low-rise blocks on Karel Doormanstraat, A. Krijgsman (1902–1986) the two blocks on Joost Banckertsplaats, and Herman Bakker (1915–1988) the two blocks on Jan Evertsenplaats. A mural by Louis van Roode adorns the hall of the Olveh block.
Galleries on the north and east sides provide access to the high-rise blocks. A central hall on one side contains lifts and the main staircase, and there is a second emergency staircase on the other side. Lifts stop midway between two floors, which was standard practice in the 1950s. The apartments above the shops on Karel Doormanstraat are accessed from porch entrances on the court side.
Almost all homes are compact three-room apartments; slightly larger apartments are positioned at the ends of the blocks next to the lift and staircase. For their time, these were luxury apartments: ‘Among the standard fittings are a factory-made kitchen and stainless-steel draining board, house telephone, special lift for rubbish bags, central mast for radio and television and bathroom with built-in bathtub.’ The Cityflat on Kruiskade was even more luxurious. Rents were relatively high.
Apart from the ground-floor stops in the low-rise blocks, three of the four tall slabs also contained shops. A retail unit also occupied the end of the Olveh block on Joost Banckertsplaats. The first floor of this block was reserved for doctors’ surgeries, and the well-known hairdresser John Postmus has his salon here. Shops also occupied the ends of the nine-floor slabs.
Located right beside the entrance to the Olveh block on Karel Doormanstraat, one of the five imposing residential slabs behind the Lijnbaan, which gives the centre of Rotterdam such allure, is the fifth and youngest branch of the John Postmus hairdressers-perfumery-cosmetics chain. It is a modern, luxury salon with a cosy ground-floor boutique, separated from the hall of the apartment block by a glass wall, which sells everything in the area of toiletries, cosmetics and perfume.
Nieuwe Schiedamsche Courant, 18 January 1958
The apartments were initially occupied by many families with children, with the green courts used as play areas. But the apartments were relatively small, and high-rise was increasingly seen as less suitable for families with children, who gradually moved out to the new suburbs. From the late 1980s onwards, the relatively ageing residents were joined by young couples without children. This new group discovered the Lijnbaan apartments as an attractive city centre residential location. Minor adjustments have ensured that the entrances are no longer open to the public. The apartments on Joost Banckertsplaats were renovated in 2016.
Location: Kruiskade; Joost Banckertsplaats; Jan Evertsenplaats
Architect: H.A. Maaskant; H.A. Maaskant, A. Krijgsman; H.D. Bakker
National Heritage Site