The workshops, storage spaces and garages of the Holland America Line in Rotterdam are now housed in a big new building. A wish long held by the H.A.L. – centralization of its activity – has thus been realized. The spacious structure, with three upper levels above a ground floor and basement, covers a total surface area of 13,150 m2 and is located on the Wilhelminakade-Rijnhaven pier, right next to the main office.
Trouw, 19 August 1955
A decision to build was taken in 1951. The new development replaced a building on the other side of Rijnhaven. The architecture firm of Van den Broek and Bakema was of course invited to design this structure as well. The building was designed in close consultation with the Technical Department of the HAL.
The chosen site was located in the central zone of the pier. A cold store was initially planned here, the foundations for which had already been built. As many of the 1132 concrete piles as possible were reused in the new design. The ideal spacing between columns in the workshop building was 7.5 metres. Because the earlier design was based on a column spacing of 5 metres, a grid of beams was placed on top of the foundations to carry the loads of the columns. Mushroom-shaped columns were used, with floor slabs of 22 and 30 centimetres thickness.
The building is 105 metres long and between 44 and 39 metres wide. That means the building is not perfectly rectilinear. Two expansion joints divide it into three similar sized sections. The building has a basement, an extra tall ground floor, and three upper levels. The dimensioning of the structure allowed for the possibility of an additional floor.
A wide corridor extends through the building to allow delivery vehicles to enter. Three lifts positioned in the middle of the building could be exited on both sides. A vehicular lift 2.5 by 6 metres in size could carry forklifts and small delivery trucks. One lift was reserved for the linen room. The third was a passenger lift.
A wide corridor extends through the building to allow delivery vehicles to enter.
Fabric and linen
The central storage space was located on the ground floor, a metalworks and forge on the first floor, and a linen store on the second floor. Special requirements applied here in terms of hygiene and lack of dust. More than two and a half millions items of linen, as well as 30,000 sheets, entered the linen store each year. The canteen for the 300 workshop employees was on the second level. A sail-making workshop was located in a column-free space on the third floor. Because of that, the roof structure is held in place by a truss.
The architecture firm of Van den Broek and Bakema has created a commercial building it can be proud of. Huge quantities of cement, iron reinforcements and concrete were needed for the structure of reinforced concrete. The designers and the contractor, Dura, have succeeded in turning that bare concrete skeleton into an elegant and highly functional building.
Trouw, 19 August 1955
Construction started on 10 June 1952. The flooding of February 1953 filled part of the basement with water and all sorts of rubbish and pieces of railway track. The concrete work was completed by 17 July 1953. The concrete skeleton was finished in precast concrete facade panels, 2.5 metres wide and 4.2 metres high. Various panels were applied: blank panels with just a small opening at the top; open panels with a large expanse of glass above a wall; and panels with a lower walled portion and an extra-large glass area. The openings at the top formed a continuous band of fenestration, which was a favourite element in the work of Van den Broek and Bakema. Components with horizontal concrete slats were fitted on the top floor to provide ventilation for the timber stock. Facades were originally left untreated and unpainted. The recessed facade on the ground floor was faced in brick. The corners were rounded to prevent damage by forklifts and delivery trucks.
Escape stairs were positioned on the side facades in such a way that one stairs is on the inside of the facade and the next one on the outside. The building opened in August 1955.
The corners were rounded to prevent damage by forklifts and delivery trucks.
Like the other structures, the workshop building lost its function after the departure of the Holland America Line. Maas-Rijn, a company that loaded and unloaded vessels, then became the building’s main tenant. It was mostly used to store sugar; the lifts allowed pallets of sugar to be stored on all levels. The building also provided storage space for the biannual boat service to the Canary Islands. Hence the name of the building, Las Palmas, in reference to the islands’ capital.
It was initially planned to demolish all buildings in the middle zone of Wilhelminapier. After the Arrivals Hall and the Main Office acquired new functions, these buildings were also deemed worthy of preservation and renovation. Las Palmas came to be considered for a cultural use. From the year 2000 on, it hosted various events, festivals and exhibitions such as Interbellum in 2021, with the city was European Capital of Culture. The building was also considered as the venue for a new centre for image culture, but that plan never materialized. Las Palmas was renovated by Benthem Crouwel Architects in 2006 and 2007. They also designed an elegant roof-top structure for property developer OVG. The building is now home to the Nederlands Fotomuseum, the cultural organization SKVR Beeldfabriek, a Herman den Blijker restaurant, and a venue for exhibitions and cultural events called LP II.
Las Palmas became a designated municipal monument in 2017.