Karel van Kessel bought his flat in Wereldhaven in 1982. The former head attendant at the Netherlands Architecture Institute (which has since been renamed the New Institute), Mr Kessel is passionate about Rotterdam’s history and architecture. He still pursues his passion by giving tours of the city on behalf of the Guild of Rotterdam. Karel was the flat’s first owner; the apartment had always been a rental until he bought it. The small, uniform neighbourhood was built for civil servants, Karel explains, and then primarily for four-person families. When he moved into his new home, several of the very first tenants still lived nearby, including a retired postman and a retired police officer. Karel lived in an alcove home at first, which was torn down to make way for the urban renewal projects in the late 1970s. He often walked along Wereldhaven and appreciated the structure and the feel of the area. This compact little neighbourhood is very close to the city centre, too; you can walk right into the city in no time.
An exceptional neighbourhood
It’s an exceptional little neighbourhood, Karel says. People have strong feelings about this area. “Wereldhaven was like a village; people lived here their whole lives.” The same was true of the Hoogkwartier area. Maybe, Karel contemplates, this lack of transience is due to the small-scale nature of these neighbourhoods, in contrast to the large-scale structure of the rest of the city centre, which seems a bit too grand for people to live in.
People have strong feelings about this area. “Wereldhaven was like a village; people lived here their whole lives.”
Ideal setting for families
Minor details from the original design for the Wereldhaven neighbourhood have vanished over the years. Wereldhaven was built during the Second World War as an ideal place for families to live. Precisely the details that architect Jan Wils incorporated into his design to accommodate those families proved inconvenient in actual practice, Karel explains. The balcony railings and concrete pergolas between the buildings soon had to be blocked off due to safety concerns; local children were climbing all over them. Far too dangerous. The basement rooms were originally envisaged as various types of common rooms, but are now primarily used as bicycle storage facilities. Bars have been installed since then, blocking public access to the basements.
The balcony railings and concrete pergolas between the buildings soon had to be blocked off due to safety concerns; local children were climbing all over them.
An authentic Piet Zwart Bruynzeel kitchen
One group of local residents that have an entirely unique perspective on how the buildings in Wereldhaven should be used are the common swifts that build their nests in the rooftops. It’s a good thing that these roofs have not been replaced yet, since more modern roofing would probably make them less suitable habitats for the birds. Wereldhaven is a very green neighbourhood. The gardens are a perfect spot for a stroll and offer a great place for children to play. The kitchen and dining room have been placed on the garden side of these homes so mothers could keep a close eye on their children. Karel’s kitchen is an authentic Piet Zwart Bruynzeel; his home still boasts panel doors and small ceiling lights. Traces of earlier times.
Wereldhaven is a very green neighbourhood. The gardens are a perfect spot for a stroll and offer a great place for children to play.