Architect Oud has tried to express in the building the associations evoked in him by the term Spaarbank. He told us that Spaarbank made him think of solidarity, dignity and character. He wanted to make his design correspond with these terms and, moreover, give it a highly distinctive form. “Although I have great respect for the reconstruction of Rotterdam, I am of the view that there are too few points of note,” said Oud, “too many buildings have a similar or almost similar architecture.”
Het Vrĳe Volk 13-5-1957
New head office
The head office of the Verenigde Spaarbank on Botersloot was badly damaged by the bombardment. A small section of the ground floor remained standing and was temporarily used for bank business. But it would be a long time before a new building was erected. It wasn’t until 15 May 1957 that the first customer walked through the door of the new building. At least half the people in Rotterdam had an account at the Spaarbank, which also had twenty branches.
At least half the people in Rotterdam had an account at the Spaarbank, which also had twenty branches.
So the thrifty and money-saving Rotterdammers certainly don’t have to suspect Mr. P.E.W. Lugt, the director of ‘the Botersloot’ of wasteful, yes luxurious tendencies, if he deems it necessary to build a new head office. For even patching up the ruin would prove far too expensive and far too impractical to house a well-equipped savings bank. Such an organisation requires a centre, accessible to everybody, for the over 300,000 current account holders, that must provide the details required every day by the public (the savers) and by the personnel. A building with a big floor area is therefore vital, and this is not possible in the patched-up ruin of the old office. Moreover, forty years ago they were far too generous with the space; we now consider rooms of 6.5 metres in height too impractical, if only on account of the heating.
Het Vrĳe Volk 13-12-1950
Architect of a ‘higher level’
During the war years architect A.A. van Nieuwenhuyzen first worked on a design for the existing site, so that the old safes could be reused. In the Reconstruction Plan the Spaarbank was, however, offered a narrower and longer site, because the planners wanted to prevent a rear facade overlooking Binnenrotte. For the definitive design, an architect of a ‘higher level’ was appointed: J.J.P. Oud. In the 1920s Oud had been one of the leading figures in Dutch architecture, but in the late 1930s he began to experience doubts about the principles of Nieuwe Bouwen. That doubt is expressed in this design: Just like the Shell building (in The Hague) it was an attempt to enhance my simple design of the 20s with a more differentiated style of representation.
For the definitive design, an architect of a ‘higher level’ was appointed: J.J.P. Oud.
For that, Oud deployed traditional compositional devises such as symmetry, a geometric dimensioning system, decoration and sculptures. The floor plan was very functional, with an elliptical-shaped central hall with a glazed roof on the ground floor for the public. Surrounding it on three sides was a U-shaped arrangement of offices; only on the ground floor were there offices on four sides arranged around the central hall. Stairwells occupy the four corners. The main entrance is located on Botersloot, with side entrances for personnel and for the rentable offices on the upper levels.
The definitive design was ready by October 1943, but finalising the design took years because of changes to the site boundaries, because the Spaarbank directors kept changing their requirements, and because there were problems with the compulsory purchase of a piece of land. Exactly seventeen years after the bombardment, the new savings bank was at last finished.
The concrete-structure is wrapped in facades of light-coloured glazed brick. Stone is applied liberally both inside and outside. The building also boasts a lot of ornamentation designed by Oud, including round windows to the stairwells, ironwork in front of the windows and sculpture above the door: a hand that drops a coin into a piggy bank combined with the plan of Rotterdam. Six sculptures adorn the balconies on the top floor of the side facades. Sculptor Aart van den IJssel (1922-1983) was invited to create a number of ‘savings animals’ and chose for native species: hamster, hedgehog, badger, squirrel, bee and ant.
Sculptor Aart van den IJssel (1922-1983) was invited to create a number of ‘savings animals’ and chose for native species: hamster, hedgehog, badger, squirrel, bee and ant.
Oud also worked on the interior of the Spaarbank, designing special furniture such as a seating corner with tubular-steel furniture upholstered in imitation leather, a conference table and four rugs. The furniture is now part of the collection at Het Nieuwe Instituut.
In 1981 the Rotterdam Spaarbank merged with the Verenigde Spaarbank, which later became VSB. In about 1993 the building on Botersloot became vacant. In 1996 De Nijl Architects proposed to convert it into a ‘residential hotel’. From 1999 on the building was occupied by the Berlage Institute, a post-academic laboratory for architects. The building also housed a number of architecture offices. Owing to funding cutbacks, the Berlage Institute relocated to Delft University of Technology in 2012. Since 2014 the building has been occupied by Luzac College. It is a designated municipal monument.