For Rotterdam’s Stadskantoor, a new building for the city hall that will accommodate municipal services, offices, and residential units, OMA conceived a modular building with repeated units gradually set back from the street as they rise into two irregular peaks. The building’s composition of smaller cells creates an impressive, complex form when viewed from Coolsingel, one of Rotterdam’s main arteries, and allows for subtlety and adaptability as the new building meets the Stadstimmerhuis (a municipal building, from 1953), which surrounds it on two sides.
The Stadskantoor’s innovative structural system generates maximum efficiency and versatility both in construction and in program: units can be added or even dismounted from the structure as demands on the building change over time, and can adapt to either office space or residential parameters as desired. Green terraces on higher levels provide the possibility of an apartment with a garden in the heart of urban Rotterdam. On the street level, the structure allows for generous open space, with modules overhanging rather than encroaching into an interstitial area, encouraging an active and open engagement between the Stadskantoor and the city.
The design brief stipulated that the Stadskantoor must be the most sustainable building in the Netherlands. OMA tackled this imperative through the building’s core concept of flexibility, and also through the two large atriums, which act like lungs. They are connected to a climate system that stores warmth in summer and cold in winter and releases this energy as warm or cold air as required. The building’s glass facade uses hi-tech translucent insulation that allows for unprecedented energy efficiency.
Rem Koolhas states:
“What does Rotterdam really need?
After an impressive sequence of abrupt architectural transitions– from the stark modernity of the reconstruction, via the“new humanism” of the cubes, the repressed postmodern of the 90s to the current apotheosis of Dutch modernity– launched by the fireworks of the 1940 bombardment, all these ideologies coexist and interact in harsh juxtaposition, each successive layer oblivious and in contradiction to the previous ones.
What is now needed may be subtlety and ambiguity in the midst of an overdose of form. We propose a“formless” heap, consisting of smaller elements that are shaped to perform a number of major and minor responsibilities.
Where necessary the shape can be formal and impressive, almost symmetrical– for instance, from the Coolsingel, glimpsed between the two survivors– and where desired, it can be delicate and accommodating– for instance in its relationship with the existing monument, Stadstimmerhuis.
Our structural system– a three dimensional Vierendeel structure in steel– enables us to improvise and to liberate the ground almost in its entirety, to interpret the“Stadswinkel” as an unencumbered public space, in which we arrange the interaction between citizen and city in a dignified, spacious urban landscape, with an almost“Roman” scale and materiality.”
The project– now in the design development phase– has recently received a four-star (“Excellent”) rating from BREEAM.