Child friendly neighbourhood on top of Rotterdam
Bachelor thesis, architecture and construction engineering
by Robin-Jay King
In the center of Rotterdam there is a surplus of unused office buildings usually confined to different area’s in the city. To give these buildings a new future the municipality of Rotterdam pointed out these area’s as re-development locations. With this thesis research one of these buildings was used as the base of a new type of family housing. This was done by designing the houses on top of the office building.
The research tackled the following four design principles:
1. Can the houses be designed without major modifications to the existing building?
2. Can the houses be designed without interfering with the neighboring built environment in a negative way?
3. Is it possible to make appropriate private outdoor space for the individual houses?
4. Is it possible to make efficient residential floor plans with enough bedrooms?
The location for this project was the roof of the office building called “the Eendracht” at the Westblaak in Rotterdam. This onorthodox location is the result of the specific needs of the target group. It needed to be a safe and child-friendly location in the neighborhood of all kinds of facilities. The Westblaak is one of the widest and greenest streets of Rotterdam and has a big skate park in the middle of the street. It’s next to the cultural part of the city, which also connects to the biggest park in the center of Rotterdam. The location withdraws itself from the crowds of the busy shopping center and from the main horeca street in Rotterdam, the Witte the With Street on the other side. According to the documents of the municipality it was important for the families to have sufficient traversal options for both inside the city and the surrounding area. The Westblaak is one of the main connections through the center of the city, furthermore the building is located next to the metro stop Eendrachtsplein.
Location in the city center
Attaching to the office building
The office building was built during the 60’s in the period of the reconstruction of Rotterdam. The reconstruction buildings from this period are not defined by architecture characteristics except having mostly flat roofs, repetitive building methods and the construction usually being oversized. The construction method for the mass on top of the building needed to be light so no changes had to be made to the existing construction and also had to attach to the roof without changing the existing roof. The light weight “steel frame building” construction for the new mass was designed on top of small columns on the same positions of the existing column structure. In between the roof of the existing building and the floor of the new mass the space that was left was used for the new installation pipework. To accommodate for the installations that were placed on the roof, the installations were placed back in the originally designed installation room at the top floor of the building. To accommodate for the ventilation of the installation space and to keep the original aesthetic of the building, the black aluminum cladding at top of the building was replaced with perforated aluminum cladding.
The design of the main mass is intended to not influence the existing built environment in a negative way. By pushing every layer on top of the existing building back 3 meters the shading on the existing built environment in all seasons except the winter stays roughly the same. This was the base for the decision to make the mass 3 levels high, the total setback of 9 meters on the top floor left 9 meters of depth for the smallest house, with a width of 7,2 meters. The 3 meters set back were used to create a common and private green outdoor space. The first meter is used as the main traversal corridor for the residents. The other two meters, marked by the vegetation roof, are used as the private gardens for the residents. By adding a vegetation wall next to entrance attached to the gardens the vegetated garden feeling was emphasized. To provide the fire escape routes and to create more interaction between the different levels two sets of stairs were designed that run from level to level, every time ending in a peak that becomes a space to overlook the city and have a chat with the neighbors.
Social interaction on the roof
The design for the housing is fully based on creating as much functional space without sacrificing living comfort. The main concept of the floor plans is based on the division of three zones: the living zone, the technical zone and the private zone. The living zone houses the main living spaces, such as the living room, dining area and possibly a bedroom. The private zones houses the bedrooms and the study. The technical zone determines the dept of the other two zones. To make the pipework efficient the installation spaces were all stacked on top of each other. The technical zone houses the kitchen, the bathrooms, the toilets and the storage space with room for laundry machines.
To create more social cohesion the living/dining rooms are directly connected to the gardens in the front, thus the front area became the living area. That feeling of openness is emphasized in the facade by creating a large glass sliding wall for the living room and the smaller vegetation wall to create some privacy. In the detailing for this project the focus was put on creating an almost seamless height difference between the outdoor area and the living zone, to give the residents the opportunity to involve the outdoor space with their living rooms.
The gardens are faced to the north - west and the houses on the lowest level were 15 meters deep so it seemed logical to create a way to get daylight from the back of the house to the front, while still keeping the private zone private. The middle of the private zone was first designed as hallway purely to get daylight from the private zone to the living zone. Because this hallway was not really efficient in the design it was turned in a 1,8 m wide study room that is typically open to the living zone but can be separated by a glass (frosted glass) sliding wall. This room can now also be used as an extension of the living room, a play room for the kids while the parents reside in the living room and of course a quiet study room.
Section with the different housing typologies
In collaboration with:
Research to creating new form of family housing
Houses 55 sqm to 110 sqm
Niels Olivier Architect, Rotterdam university of applied sciences