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Pendrecht urban design

Residential districts were built rapidly on the edges of the city after World War II. Pendrecht is the best known of the southern garden suburbs (Pendrecht, Zuidwijk, Lombardijen, IJsselmonde) in terms of architecture and urban design.

Pendrecht urban design

Numerous new residential districts have been built in our city in the years since the war. As a result, Rotterdam is no longer recognizable if you compare it with the city of old. City authorities, private developers and housing associations have built projects, but never before has such a large residential development resulted from such exemplary collaboration as in the case of Pendrecht. Five housing associations have joined forces here from the very start. No fragmentation or inconsistencies in development: that was their aim. They sought as much harmony as possible in the new district, which will, after all, grow to become the size of a city.

Het Vrije Volk, 15 May 1953

Pendrecht urban design

Model of the housing blocks at the Dirkslandstraat and the Stellendamstraat.

Expansion districts

The severe housing shortage after the war was caused by the bombardment, by five years of almost no building activity, and by a population explosion. Therefore, much needed to be constructed quickly. Expansion districts were rapidly designed and built on the edges of the city. Of the three new residential districts (Zuidwijk, Pendrecht, Lombardijen) indicated on the 1949 expansion plan drawn up for the left-bank of the river, Pendrecht was long considered the most successful example of responsible urban design. Urban designer Lotte Stam-Beese spent a long time working intensively on Pendrecht.

Pendrecht urban design

Housing blocks at the Slinge in 1963.

Ary Groeneveld, Stadsarchief Rotterdam, 1963

Pendrecht was designed by a woman! Anybody who thought that a woman could become a good interior designer, but should leave urban design to men, would do well to take a close look at the work of Ms. Stam-Beese. It has the broad style appropriate to a new district in a big city, yet it makes a pretty and in places even cosy and intimate impression. It contains a fine range of single-family homes, apartment blocks, taller structures and special buildings. One can distinguish ‘residential clusters’ of eighty by one hundred metres, each of which displays pleasant variation without affecting the harmony of the whole composition.

Het Vrije Volk, 16 November 1956

Pendrecht urban design
Pendrecht urban design

Neighbourhood concept and residential cluster

The members of Opbouw, the group of modern architects based in Rotterdam, made a study plan for Pendrecht and presented it at the 1949 CIAM congress in Bergamo. CIAM stands for Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Modernes, the platform where modern architects and urban designers gathered to exchange ideas.

The key principle behind these post-war districts was the so-called neighbourhood concept, an American idea propagated in the Netherlands in particular by Alexander Bos, director of the Department of Public Housing, and architect Willem van Tijen. The construction of clearly defined neighbourhoods, each with its own centre containing amenities, would counteract the social fragmentation and massive scale of the big city by fostering a sense of community.

In addition, a new plot arrangement called the wooneenheid (‘residential cluster’) was employed in Pendrecht. Each cluster consisted of about eighty homes for both big and small families, such as singles and seniors. It consisted of two tall freestanding apartment blocks and three low-rise blocks grouped around a shared green space. Eight to ten of these clusters formed a neighbourhood; the whole district consisted of four neighbourhoods grouped around the centrally located Plein 1953 and the central access road, called Slinge. Each neighbourhood contained a commercial centre for daily needs, a kindergarten and a community centre. Primary schools were situated centrally between the neighbourhoods. That was also the location of the Saint Bavo Catholic Church by architect Harry Nefkens (1958-1960), with its freestanding bell tower, the only striking structure in the district. Five high-rise slabs scattered around the district also form landmarks. Construction of the first six homes started on 21 December 1953. The streets of Pendrecht are named after villages in Zeeland and Zuid-Holland that were hit by the disastrous flooding of 1953.

Pendrecht urban design

A group of 70-80 families, varying in age and composition, was accordingly taken as the module for creating the shaping element for residential communities in the Pendrecht plan. The relations, tensions and social interaction among this group of 70-80 families formed the actual ‘building blocks’ of this new district. No incidental aesthetic solution was initially sought. Rather, the structure of a social constellation itself was used as the basic design unit. Instead of a ‘pattern’, we sought a ‘grid’ in which these conclusions could be reached in their own way.

Lotte Stam-Beese in: Tijdschrift voor volkshuisvesting 1953-10

Pendrecht urban design

Stamps

The residential cluster was later commonly referred to as a stempel, or ‘stamp’. For it looked as if the clusters had been stamped onto the available site. However, closer examination reveals that these stamps show much more variation than a quick glance might suggest. Moreover, the mirroring of stamps added variety in terms of patterns.

Pendrecht consisted of ten sub-areas, which were developed around the centre clockwise, starting from the north-west. The small shopping centre at Zijpe, designed by Lucas and Niemeijer, is a good example of the careful urban design and functionalist architecture of Pendrecht. Pitched roofs even featured in this oldest part of Pendrecht. Apart from Lucas and Niemeijer, typical residential architects such as Herman Bakker, Joost Boks, Harry Nefkens, Kuiper Gouwetor & De Ranitz, Jos. and Leo de Jonge, bureau Hendriks Van der Sluys and Van den Bosch, bureau Vermeer and Van Herwaarden and Ernest Groosman designed buildings here.

Pendrecht urban design

High-rise elements

A number of taller residential structures were positioned around the district as urban landmarks. Architect Wim Wissing designed an apartment block (1959) for the Holland America Line penision fund on Oldengaarde, Ernest Groosman designed a block (1959) using the Muwi system of serial production on the eastern side, and Denijs and Key designed an apartment block (1959) for the pension fund of BPM, later renamed Shell, on the western side. Also located here is a neighbourhood of villas. Built close to Plein 1953 is the Karel de Stoute apartment block by Swaneveld & Goslinga (1960). The shopping centre, designed by Van Embden and Van Andel, featuring extensive paved areas and water features, proved far too open and unsheltered right from the start.

So Pendrecht will be an urban community, with architectural nods to earlier rural elements. And, apart of course from its huge contribution to lessening the housing shortage, Pendrecht is an urban design experiment on a very big scale. It is not being built for the established, mature human of today. Instead, Pendrecht is geared to the family of the near future; in other words, to the youth of today.

Het Vrije Volk, 28 January 1954

Pendrecht urban design

From the cradle to the grave

The residential cluster was therefore intended for various categories of residents, which was expressed in the appearance. Unlike the members of Opbouw, Stam-Beese saw the residential cluster not as a social grouping but as a design element. Sociological studies also revealed that the residential cluster did not function as a social group. In theory, one could live in a residential cluster from the cradle to the grave. In practice, however, children left home and departed the neighbourhood, leaving the original residents behind.

The population of Pendrecht aged, and from the 1990s on the small and spartan flats became a temporary station for residents from urban renewal districts and groups attracted by low rents. The maintenance of the plentiful public space became problematic and neighbourhood amenities gradually disappeared. The distinctively functional style and industrial construction systems of the 1950s gave the neighbourhood a frugal appearance. The architects had devoted more attention to optimizing residential floor plans than to the appearance of the homes. Energy efficiency was not an issue in the design of the blocks.

Pendrecht urban design

Today

Since the start of the twenty-first century, large parts of Pendrecht have been torn down and replaced by larger and more expensive homes for a more varied population composition. Some 1750 homes have disappeared, and 1600 new ones built.

A total of 177 homes by Duinker Van der Torre have been built in the north-eastern area, and the distinctive 'fishbowls' by Harry Nefkens have been renovated. Some homes for seniors and a residential block on Slinge have been replaced by studio apartments and a tall block of apartments for seniors by Karelse Van der Meer. Henk van Schagen renovated a number of complexes around Zierikzeestraat. Endry van Velzen of De Nijl (1996-2000) built patio dwellings near the centre of Pendrecht. He also drew up the urban design for Plein 1953. Three urban villas by Inbo Architects, two residential towers containing 132 so-called ‘lifetime-compatible homes’ by Daan ter Avest (XX architects) and a supermarket and library achieve the desired increase in density.

The urban structure has been maintained in the south-eastern part, but the blocks of staircase-access apartments have been replaced by rows of ground-access dwellings. They have vertical facades to the street but mono-pitch roofs at the rear.


Pendrecht urban design
Pendrecht urban design
Pendrecht urban design
Pendrecht urban design
Pendrecht urban design
Pendrecht urban design
Pendrecht urban design
Pendrecht urban design
Architect
C.I.A. Stam-Beese
Period
1949-1953
Subjects
Neighborhoods
Neighborhoods
Pendrecht Zuid