• Articles

Shop and enjoy in the Twaalfprovinciënhuis

With a sense of bravura similar to the completion of the Market Hall in October 2014, the Twaalfprovinciënhuis shopping centre opened in 1955.

stadsarchief twaalfprovincien klein

The Twelve Provinces shopping centre, built in 1955, never became the intended attraction on the second section of Hoogstraat.

Rotterdam City Archives Collection of Public Works Department, L-2306

The Twaalfprovinciënhuis, one of the latest creations in the rapidly and dynamically developing Rotterdam, is more imposing than beautiful. In any case, it is an adventurous initiative, set up by a group of fearless, wealthy businessmen. On a site measuring 18 by 86 metres, adjoining the new market square, the Rotterdam architect Herman Bakker, commissioned by the Wereldhaven company, has built a gigantic building intended not only to blend harmoniously with the modern architecture in the city on the Maas, but also to be so distinctive that it could become a landmark for many people. With the visible impatience that has gripped Rotterdammers in rebuilding their city, those plans are being implemented as soon as time allows, and in less than a year a thirty-metre-tall building has risen up to dominate the entire area. Rotterdam apparently fears absolutely nothing.

De Tijd 22-10-1955

twaalfprovincien

The Twelve Provinces shopping centre under construction, April 1955.

AD: Archive of Het Vrije Volk

Competition for the Lijnbaan

With a sense of bravura similar to the completion of the Market Hall in October 2014, the Twaalfprovinciënhuis (Twelve Provinces House) shopping centre opened in 1955. Together with the rows of shops behind it on Nieuwemarkt, this was expected to become a formidable competitor to the Lijnbaan.

Unique centre pleases the ears, eyes and tongue, the sales brochure proclaimed. It is an American plan. However, by now we should describe it as a typically “Rotterdam” plan: unprecedented, unheard of, adventurous and amazing.

Het Vrije Volk 7-11-1953

stadsarchief 12 schets buiten

A drawing of the two rows of shops on Nieuwemarkt, with the Twelve Provinces House in the background.

Rotterdam City Archives

stadsarchief 12 foto buiten

The completed shopping centre.

Rotterdam City Archives

nieuwemarkt

The Twelve Provinces shopping centre under construction, seen from Nieuwemarkt.

National Archive

Shopping centre

The two rows of shops on Nieuwemarkt consisted of just thirty shops. Twaalfprovinciënhuis was a forerunner of the later covered shopping centres and contained two hundred shops.

Right at the top of the building was a big cafeteria called Flevo. The building also housed a cinema, as well as a congress centre, party and theatre.

This structure, like the Groothandelsgebouw and Lijnbaan, will amaze the world.

The huge building is made up of twelve intermediate levels, and each of these levels is named after one of the Dutch provinces. It’s ahead of its time, for they have no doubt already heard that the Zuiderzee polders will become the twelfth province and given it the name “Flevo”. Limburg occupies the basement and Flevo the attic. Mindful of the merriment that the people of Limburg are in the habit of making, the floor named after this province is reserved for market traders and entertainment. Vendors will be able to rent a spot under the slogan “Marvels and bargains from Limburg”, where they can offer their wares... On the remaining levels — or in the other provinces, if you prefer — there is room for fifty shops of various types.

De Tijd 22-10-1955

stadsarchief 12 schets

Impression of the interior with split-level floors.

Rotterdam City Archives

stadsarchief 12 flevo

Each floor was named after a province. At the top of the building was Flevo restaurant.

Rotterdam City Archives

Bankruptcy

The Twaalfprovinciënhuis turned out a fiasco and was declared bankrupt within a year. The combination of shops and market smells proved no success. The biggest problem was its remote location. Hoogstraat as a shopping street ended at Vlasmarkt, and the market had not yet relocated to Binnenrotte. Pedestrians were put off by the large swampy undeveloped surroundings.

The combination of shops and market smells proved no success.

The building was converted into an office block, though that didn’t turn out successful either. Clearly inspired by the work of Le Corbusier, the striking structure was eventually demolished in 1996.

The New Market and the adjoining Pannekoekstraat and Hoogstraat do not lie “along the route”. The public cannot get there very easily from the centre — Beursplein or Meent — by walking to the shops around Mariniersweg. Not one single shop in this area possesses enough appeal to attract people across the bare building sites near the viaduct.

Het Vrije Volk 26-10-1956

Chapter of shame

In the as yet unwritten book about Rotterdam’s reconstruction, the section on 1956 contains a chapter of shame entitled ‘The Twaalfprovinciënhuis’. It tells the story of a major experiment that failed. It tells of the sleepless nights of a number of shopkeepers and market vendors, and of the battle of a builder who tried to run a shopping centre. And it arouses hesitation in the voice of the Rotterdammer, who is justifiably proud when speaking of the rebuilding of his city.

Het Vrije Volk 31-12-1956

Architect
H.D. Bakker
Period
1953-1955
Subjects
Buildings
Neighborhoods
Laurenskwartier
Buildings
Stores Gesloopt