The Netherlands has a new world icon. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee awarded the Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam World Heritage status. This is a worldwide acknowledgement of the unique and universal value of the former coffee, tea and tobacco factory. For many years it has been used successfully as offices and an events venue under the name Van Nelle Factory. The redevelopment was done by VolkerWessels.
Internationally renowned architects like Norman Foster and Renzo Piano, and famous Rotterdam partnerships such as OMA and MVRDV are making their mark on the city’s modern architecture. However, Rotterdam also has some historic gems from the ‘Nieuwe Bouwen’ era.
The newly awarded UNESCO status for the Van Nelle Factory (1925-31) confirms that Rotterdam has much to offer in terms of architectural history. The striking factory, designed and built in the 1920s, is a typical example of modernism. The factory complex, a collection of interconnected buildings, is one of the highlights of twentieth-century industrial architecture. Soon after it was built, prominent architects described the factory as ‘the most beautiful spectacle of the modern age’ (Le Corbusier, 1932) and ‘a poem in steel and glass’ (Robertson and Yerbury, 1930).
After production ceased in 1995, the then owner of the factory, Sara Lee/DE, and the local authority looked for a fitting new use for the complex. The sale to the CV Van Nelle Design Factory created a new ‘Van Nelle community’. The successful redevelopment of the factory was carried out between 1999 and 2006, under the direction of builders VolkerWessels. Wessel de Jonge acted as coordinating architect. UNESCO endorses the fact that the painstaking restoration has preserved the authenticity of the complex in all respects, producing a result that visitors and new business users of the Van Nelle factory can clearly see and feel.
The award of World Heritage status to the Van Nelle Factory brings to ten the total number of sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.