Exactly a year after the first pile for a seven-floor office building on Schiekade at Hofplein was driven into the ground, this morning at 11 o’clock the flag was hoisted at the highest point of construction. The ceremony was carried out by Mr. Herm. W. Meijer, the oldest director of Nillmij, which will open a branch here on a whole floor of the building.
Het Vrije Volk, 14 October 1959
The initial plan was to terminate the block of commercial premises along Delftsestraat with two buildings at Schiekade: an L-shaped office block on Schiestraat designed by the Rotterdam architecture firm Vermeer & Herwaarden for construction company Ooms; and an office building by the collaborating architects A.N. Schippers and W. Verschoor from The Hague for contractor Van Vliet & Van Dulst. Architecturally speaking, the two buildings would form one entity. The scheme presented in 1956 showed five office floors above a showroom and café-restaurant on the ground floor. In the end, the two projects merged into a single building designed by Willem Verschoor (1880-1968) in collaboration with his son Willem H. Verschoor (1917-2005). Vermeer & Herwaarden were invited to design the interior for Ooms.
On 15 October 1958, construction started on the building, whose client was now Nillmij (the Dutch East Indies Life Assurance and Life Annuity Company). After leaving Indonesia, Nillmij opened its head office in The Hague, and wanted to open a branch here in Rotterdam. The company later merged to become Ennia and has since been incorporated into AEGON. For Nillmij, the new building was also a property investment. The definitive plan was for a seven-floor structure with a 65-metre-long facade.
Mr. J. van Vliet described this collaboration between the two firms and two architecture offices as extremely successful. All sorts of double elements that would have been unavoidable in separate structures could now be avoided, thereby reducing costs considerably.
The lower floor will be occupied by Nillmij, the financer and client for the building. The sixth floor has been reserved for Van Vliet & Van Dulst, with the exception of the part to be built by the firm Ooms. The structure will align well with the tall structures around Hofplein.
Het Vrije Volk, 16 October 1958
Solid concrete structure
The building was completed in April 1960. Apart from Van Vliet & Van Dulst, Ooms and Nillmij, the building housed all sorts of companies, among them insurance firms, an architecture studio and an American firm of commercial consultants. On the third floor was a central canteen. Each floor had a toilet block and a coffee kitchen so that it could be rented separately. A structure for lift equipment and a caretaker’s house stood on the roof. At the rear, a lower volume fronted onto Schiestraat. The basement contained archive space for all tenants and a bike shed.
The building features a solid concrete structure with two stairwells, one on Delftsestraat with a passenger lift and the main stairwell on Schiekade with two lifts. The facade was fitted with steel-framed windows with double glazing for heat and sound insulation. Dark-blue panels of enamelled asbestos-cement extended horizontally below the windows. The opaque sections of the facade were faced in cast stone slabs.
The ground floor is set back 1.35 metres from the building line, creating a natural canopy for the showrooms and shops. Moreover, the setback picks out the main volume more clearly in the composition. The shopfronts and entrance area on the ground floor were detailed in glass and aluminium, a hyper-modern material at the time. The sections beneath the glazing were faced in quartzite. No doubt, the distinguished and robust appearance of the building filled the insurance company with pride.
After years languishing in anonymity, the building suddenly found itself the centre of attention as Schieblock. Plans for the Central District entailed the building’s demolition. But owing in part to the property crisis, those plans never got off the ground, and the building, like the rest of Delftsestraat, was temporarily repurposed. The Rotterdam architecture office Zones Urbaines Sensibles (ZUS), which had been anti-squatting in the building since 2002, landed an opportunity to manage the property for a five-year period, starting in 2011. ZUS also launched the initiative to build the Luchtsingel, an elevated walkway through the area in the form of a wooden bridge that punched through the building, crossed the busy traffic on Schiekade and extended to the Hofplein viaduct. After much difficulty, this connector was eventually completed in two phases: the first across Schiekade in 2012, and the second in 2014. Public functions such as Urban Guides, OMI, Groos department store and BAR filled the ground floor, while the upper floors were let to firms in the creative sector. In 2012 the roof became DakAkker, the first harvestable roof in the Netherlands. A restaurant called Op het Dak opened its doors in 2014. This experiment in urban agriculture attracted a lot of attention.