‘Vooruitgang’, the Rotterdam Cooperative Bakery and Consumer Association, was founded in 1898 to provide good-quality bread and other foodstuffs to working class people at an affordable price. Such cooperatives were common in pre-war Rotterdam and included the ‘Forward’ Workers General Cooperative and the Producers Cooperative Wholesale Association (HAKA). Apart from a bakery and dairy, the ‘Vooruitgang’ cooperative had various departments such as grocery suppliers, manufacturer, library, shoe shops, bread market and car depot.
The bombardment destroyed various ‘Vooruitgang’ shops in the centre, Kralingen and Zomerhof District, as well as the head office on Schoterbosstraat and the bakery on Botersloot. A tile tableau in the shop at number 373 Nieuwe Binnenweg recalls the bread factory and confectionery. Shortly after the liberation, ‘Vooruitgang’ moved into a new office building on Schiekade.
Rijnmond Bakkeries has just completed a big new cooperative bakery on Zomerhofstraat. It’s the biggest cooperative bakery in the Benelux. The building replaces all the old cooperative bakeries in the city in one go. From this central point, coop bread will be delivered to the entire Rotterdam region.
Het Vrije Volk, 20 April 1967
Uniform facade wall
Completed in 1967, the building fills the entire 4200 m2 available site. The front facade stretched almost the whole length of Zomerhofstraat and the side facade continued some distance along Schoterbosstraat. The building adjoined the 1941 Palace entertainment building on Zomerhofstraat, which was destroyed by fire in January 2007.
The building was designed by the architect and engineer Willem Zonneveld (1924), who was known for large-scale technical complexes such as the Marineterrein (Navy Grounds) in Amsterdam and an aviation school in The Hague, which he designed with the architect F.C. de Weger. In the same period he also built a large cooperative bakery in Amsterdam.
The complex consisted of two parts: a large storage depot along Schoterbosstraat and a three-floor volume of 1800 m2 along Zomerhofstraat. The ground floor here contained service spaces and parking spaces for electric cars.
The three-floor volume mostly consists of offices, but also includes a silo for storing grain and a company flat. These functions were arranged behind a uniform facade. The facade consists of a grid of sixteen columns and an elongated apron wall. The grid allowed for a variety of infills: open and closed sections and even garage doors.
Owing to the scarcity of materials, the structure was built in reinforced concrete, with the exception of steel trusses and purlins of the roof. Because the building had to be glazed and waterproof for the most part before the winter of 1965-66, a remarkable form of construction was used for the two-level volume. After the ground floor of reinforced concrete in a so-called mushroom structure was finished, the 8.5-metre-tall columns that reached to the roof were constructed. A steel roof structure was attached to these columns, and then the roof panels were erected and the roof made waterproof. At the same time, the prefabricated facade panels were attached. Only after the building had been glazed and made waterproof did the builders start to build the first floor.
The foundations and roof were constructed in such a way that an additional floor could be added on top of the office volume in the future. Inside the warehouse is a huge ramp. Besides a bakery, the building contained other cooperative businesses such as NV Rijnmond and NV Vemaco.
Bakery and confectionery
Specific spaces were needed for the production and distribution of bakery products. In addition to the sunken silo space, they included an isolated proofing room, a plant for washing currents, a bakery and dough-making area, and an encrusting area. The storage depot on the ground floor included parking spaces for electric baker’s carts, which delivered to people’s homes.
In terms of equipment, the production department is fitted with very modern machinery, including two ‘bread production lines’, with a capacity of 5000 loaves an hour.
Het Vrije Volk, 20 April 1967
The bakery could only operate in stable climatological conditions: a temperature of 27º C and a relative humidity of 70%. A number of measures were taken to prevent condensation from forming on cold surfaces when the temperature dropped after production: well-insulated walls and ceilings, no cold bridges in concrete structures, the introduction of warm air between the ceiling, and the instalment of double-walled acrylic skylights.
The cooperative consumer association ceased operating in 1972. No bread has been baked her since 2015, but plenty of other things are now produced. The structure is now known as The (Blue-White) Building, and again functions as a multi-tenant venue and breeding ground for many creative entrepreneurs. To give the building a hip and contemporary feel, the exterior has been coloured white and blue in a dazzle painting motif.