transito, Rotterdam

Orange Architects was invited to explore the possibilities for high-rise development and a mixed-use programme on the site of an existing factory on the island of Feijenoord. The location is wonderfully sited between Persoonshaven and Piekstraat in Rotterdam. The island was created over a century ago to facilitate a combination of railway and port activities. This development resulted in a new type of port for ‘transit’ trade — the transhipment of goods — with arrival, storage and transport as characteristic functions for the purpose-built structures.

The sitting beside the water, with large tall silos, determined the appearance of buildings along this strip. The island is a unique location on the River Maas, close to the new Feyenoord City development. The transformation of the island, with a disappearance of industrial activity and the pressure from the city to add more programme and better-quality housing on this site, creates opportunities to make the area more part of the city. An increase in density and taller development can turn this neglected area into a valuable district on the southern bank of the river.

Optimally orientated to the sunny west and close to the new bridge across the water, this is the ideal location for a new meeting point, called the TRANSITO Lounge

And that quality, situated beside and accessible from the water, means that the history is also the future of this site. In recent decades these qualities may have receded into the background, but they are coming to the fore again today. Extending the cantilevered roof out over the water creates a large and sheltered tidal deck on Persoonshaven, accessible from the water and from the plinth. Optimally orientated to the sunny west and close to the new bridge across the water, this is the ideal location for a new meeting point, called the TRANSITO Lounge. A place where both the new adventurers on Piekstraat and the current residents of Feijenoord can come together, breathing new life into the old TRANSITO location!

Despite its limited size, the island of Feijenoord is characterized by a diversity of urban identities. The area contains four quadrants, each with its own character, varying from a green park and a residential area with mostly social housing to a large disused factory site and, next to it, a strip of smaller commercial buildings along the water. The four areas are connected to one another by Piekstraat, who runs across the middle of the area like a backbone. Owing to this diversity, the island has acquired a character of its own over time. These qualities are about to be developed further and enhanced. With the creation of Villa van Waning, the island will acquire a recreational programme, and the social housing will be redeveloped. The nearby Hunter Douglas site is still industrial, but it has the potential to keep its industrial heritage and be redeveloped with low-rise and medium-height buildings overlooking the river. The narrow strip of commercial plots along Piekstraat is suitable for high-rise because of the favourable siting on the waterfront and good orientation. That creates an opportunity to strengthen the identity of the island of Feijenoord, making it part of the Rotterdam skyline.

In view of the limited dimensions of the individual plots in the potential high-rise strip, at the tip of which ‘De Piek’ residential tower is now under construction, the building volume on the Transito site is split into two smaller towers. This results in a varied skyline and prevents the creation of a wall of thick towers with the development of the other locations. At the moment, the linear Piekstraat is almost completely blocked off from the water by the industrial brick buildings. These are of varied quality, ranging from monumental edifices to simple utilitarian structures, among them the building of the former ‘Nederlandsche Cooperative Transito Maatschappij’. Despite the lack of monumental quality, the most distinctive and original parts have been incorporated into the plan in order to preserve the industrial character of Piekstraat.

Lifting up the new development and adding a large cantilevered roof to it creates an array of qualities. For example, a transparent plinth, ideal for commercial programming, allowing for a renewed relationship between Piekstraat and the port. With this big but simple gesture, the old industrial facades acquire a natural place in the new streetscape.

Extending along the spacious cantilevered roof is a collective green deck for the occupants of the towers, where they can enjoy the sun and views. The high-rise consists of lower and higher volumes, resulting in a varied skyline and allowing flexibility in the programming. While the taller volume can contain various housing types, the lower volume is suitable for various functions, from housing to offices. The canopy itself can contain both commercial amenities and technical functions.  

The solid portions of the towers and cantilevered roof are faced in dark-brown brickwork to harmonize with the industrial character of the area and to express the bulk of the towers. The facades are articulated as horizontal bands with shallow balconies, in an alternating rhythm of brickwork strips and elongated glass screens. All apartments and offices therefore enjoy views of the water and city on all sides. The chosen configuration, with towers above a cantilevered roof, offers good opportunities to integrate sustainability themes into the project. For example, the towers are equipped with wind and solar energy collectors, so-called Powernests, and the cantilevered roof acts as a green lung and water buffer. Opportunities also present themselves in the area of mobility. The location lies close to Feyenoord City and is easily accessible from the nearby railway station and the future cross-river connection from the north bank. And not to forget, it remains an ideal place to get to by water.

Lifting up the new development and adding a large cantilevered roof to it creates an array of qualities
Project Details
  • Site
  • Feijenoord, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • Client
  • New Industry & Brimi Vastgoed
  • Design
  • 2018
  • Size
  • 22.500 m2
  • Assignment
  • Feasibility study
  • Team
  • Patrick Meijers, Jeroen Schipper, Kapilan Chandranesan, Casper van Leeuwen, Angela Park, Panagiotis Seltsiotis, Elena Staskute, Florentine van de Vaart
  • Visuals
  • Orange Architects