Huf shop

“This will be an attractive building,” said alderman J. Meertens this morning, after he expertly drove into the ground the first official pile for the new Huf building on Hoogstraat. “Our task is to bring back to Rotterdam the local population that now often shops in The Hague. This new premises is a crowd-puller. I’m confident that shopping in Rotterdam will be good in the near future.”

Het Vrije Volk 29-4-1953

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Huf is part of the development along Westewagenstraat, where free-standing buildings preserve views of the Laurenskerk.National Archive, 907-0562
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Big crowds at Huf shoe shop, shortly after the opening.Broekbakema architects

Ultra-modern

Anton Huf Junior had a shoe shop on Hoogstraat since 1924. After the bombardment Huf was able to build a new, ultra-modern shop almost on the same site. In contrast to the rest of Hoogstraat, with fairly traditional shops designed by the Kraaijvanger brothers, Van den Broek and Bakema were able to create an ultra-modern shopping area around the small square that spans the Steiger Canal, with their Huf and Galeries Modernes shops, somewhat similar to the Lijnbaan with large expanses of glass, freestanding display windows and canopies. A pavilion with mosaic stood on Vlasmarkt, kept free of development in order to preserve views of two churches, Laurenskerk and Steigerkerk.

In its general layout, the new Huf is American in orientation. The architects have designed a building that is detached from its surroundings on all sides and therefore distinguishes itself from many others, which are often part of a continuous street wall. The building frontage on Hoogstraat and Westewagenstraat extends for some 75 metres. It contains 1500 square metres of sales space on basement, ground and first floors.

Het Vrije Volk 27-4-1953

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Colour photo of Vlasmarkt, with a clear view of the mosaic by Sia Bakema on the rear side of the pavilion at Galeries Modernes.Cover of Forum magazine, 1957-6

Final piece of Delftsevaart

The Huf building was not only part of Hoogstraat, but also formed the final piece of the development with individual multi-tenant buildings along Delftsevaart. That series of buildings starts with Grand-Café Dudok on Meent. Owing to its urban context, the new Huf shop had to achieve a certain height. To that end, a blank storage level as well as three office levels with glazed facades and a service flat were added. During the design phase a tenant had not yet been confirmed, which is why the office space on the upper levels was fairly neutral in character. For years the offices were occupied by the American consulate. Climate problems with the large expanses of glazing soon arose, however, and the glass and ventilators were provisionally covered with adhesive foil. Huf opened on 19 March 1954.

During the design phase a tenant had not yet been confirmed, which is why the office space on the upper levels was fairly neutral in character.

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It wasn’t until the 1970s that Hoogstraat was pedestrianised.Rotterdam City Archives, GW-3300

Passionate workers

It is as though workmen here are passionate. And that is perhaps the case, because believe me, everything that contractors, architects and building craftsmen bring to their work includes a strong sense of helping to build up Rotterdam. Another site that fuels the imagination is the corner of Hoogstraat and Westewagenstraat. That is where the pile-drive frame for the construction of the big Huf building had to be placed in the middle of the roadway. For there was no other possibility. Every square metre of land in the area is in use as storage space for construction material.

Het Vrije Volk, 18 May 1953

Today

Shoe shops continued to occupy the ground floor of the building, but the office levels remained vacant for over fifteen years. Despite various proposals, including a covered market, a design centre and a church, the building continued to deteriorate. In 1999 it became a designated municipal monument, but it would be a long time before the building was restored by Wessel de Jonge. Suddenly the ugly duckling of Hoogstraat turned into a princess.

On 20 February 2010 Minister Plasterk presented a list of one hundred post-war reconstruction monuments in the Huf building. One could scarcely imagine a more fitting venue.

Full timeline