Klunder Architecten wished to shrink the enormous bulk of De Hofdame housing complex. This meant that no superfluous struts or rails were to be visible in the glazing of the balconies and terraces; the design stipulated sliding doors over the full height of the storey, and across the full width of the apartment. It transpired that Reynaers Aluminium’s CP 96 sliding-door system offered the perfect solution for this requirement. Rotterdam has major plans for the coming decades. In March 2007, the City’s Municipal Executive presented its Stadsvisie 2030 (City Vision, 2030) which states that Rotterdam intends to keep up with the competition from other major Dutch and European cities by enhancing its economy and knowledge economy, and creating a more appealing residential climate. Relatively few people currently live in Rotterdam’s inner city: the ratio is one resident to three employees, in contrast to cities such as Amsterdam, where the ratio is one to one. For this reason, the Stadsvisie 2030 stipulates that all the planned 56,000 new homes shall be constructed in the inner city, thereby breathing new life into the old districts. The development of De Hofdame is in line with these lans. The housing complex, located in the Laurenskwartier inner-city district, will accommodate a total of 1500 new homes in buildings with mixed functions. The project, originally based on a different design, had been dragging on for many years – until the developer contacted Klunder Architecten for a second opinion. They were successful in meeting the challenge of accommodating the comprehensive plans for the location in a spatially and financially feasible manner.
Architect Sjoerd Berghuis explained that he and his colleague Rien de Ruiter focused on the organisation of the complex, rather than on its shape. “For example, we designed a completely open ground floor which is directly accessible from the street. In addition, we reduced the costs by including just one underground parking level; the second parking level is located on the first floor, and this offers scope for a degree of social control. However, and above all, we wished to introduce more diversity into the apartments, and to create larger outdoor spaces – such as the inner garden, a green oasis in the middle of the city. ” The architects’ next task was to get a grip on the size of the building, with its 231 apartments, 345 parking spaces, 1800 m2 inner garden, and approx. 2000 m2 of commercial space. The challenge confronting them was to accommodate all the functions n the complex, whilst simultaneously ensuring that its colossal bulk would not be predominant. Sjoerd Berghuis wanted to have the residents feel that they have come ‘home’ on entering the ground floor.
The size of the building was optically reduced by recessing the façade of the top three storeys five metres from the lower storeys. In doing so, the building is in line with the twenty-five metre height of the adjacent Laurenskerk church. The upper storeys cannot be seen from the narrow streets around the complex; the building’s full height – the same as the church’s ridge height – is visible solely from the adjoining market square. This effect is further enhanced by the materials used for the façades. The substructure is clad with brickwork, whilst the upper storeys are clad with glass and aluminium. The architects opted for a varying design of the balconies to emphasise the scale of the individual homes. Sjoerd Berghuis explains that “the residents must not have the idea that they are numbers behind windows; each home can be identified in the façade facing the city.” Consequently, the building really does appear to be smaller than it actually is. However, and in particular, the architects wished to make the building look light – whereby the use of large areas of glass, enclosed in the slimmest possible profiles, plays an important role. Sjoerd Berghuis: “The corners of the entrance halls and the apartments above them are open, without a metal frame; the panes are sealed by a mastic joint. In addition, we also wished to minimise the number of struts and rails in the elevations visible from the outdoor spaces. The sliding doors were to extend over the full height of the storey, and everything was to be incorporated in one structure. Other suppliers proposed fixed sections alongside the sliding section – and that would have once again resulted in double struts. However, Reynaers’ CP 96 system enabled us to bridge the width of the homes with a sliding section with the single unit we envisaged. This results in a very light structure – it’s really fantastic!” Nevertheless, Sjoerd Berghuis emphasises that the price/quality ratio of a product is just as important as its appearance. “We inform the contractors of our wishes. However the contractors do not take account solely of the aesthetics; they also review the cost. Reynaers’ solution was also thoroughly convincing from the cost perspective.”