Stadstimmerhuis Meent

For a long time Stadstimmerhuis has been the name given to the building that houses city departments that deal with construction. Materials were also stored in the Stadstimmerhuis. The name refers to the old profession of Stadstimmerman, a craftsman who carried out work for the city. Later the city acquired a City Architect. The Rotterdam Stadstimmerhuis was located on Haringvliet but was destroyed during the war, and construction of a new Stadstimmerhuis concentrated the city departments around Coolsingel.

The new Stadstimmerhuis is set in what you could best describe as the centre of local government. If you also count the PTT as an institution dedicated to public service, then you have here a quartet of buildings that powerfully dominate the heart of Rotterdam: the Police Headquarters, the City Hall, the General Post Office and, now the Stadstimmerhuis.

Het Vrije Volk 17-11-1953

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The original layout of the building consisted of an elongated building along Haagseveer with four wings perpendicular to it.Rotterdam Bouwt 1951-5/6
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Rodezand, with the four wings of the Stadstimmerhuis.De Maasstad

Original arrangement

The original plan for the building consisted of an elongated volume along Haagseveer with four wings arranged perpendicular to it. Just one of those wings was built, along Meent, containing retail space on the ground floor. The main entrance was planned on Rodezand, between the two middle wings, in the continuation of Stadhuisstraat. That is why the building has secondary entrances only. The original plan was to build a low block containing a café, restaurant and canteen on Meent, opposite De Nederlanden building, which is now Grand Café Dudok. City employees could reach it by means of a footbridge. It was not until 1974 that the first pile was driven into the ground for an extension within the L-shaped block designed by Ronald Gill, architect at the Public Works Department. That building was demolished in 2011.

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The Stadstimmerhuis under construction, seen from Meent.Rotterdam City Archives
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The facade to Haagseveer, with the rear entrance that became the main entrance.Rotterdam City Archives

Civil service style

The building had a ‘clearly civil service style’: The massive facade plane is severe, but not insensitive, containing countless windows absorbed as parts of a larger entity. While the exterior already emphatically reveals that this is a building dedicated to public service, the interior is possibly even more emphatic in expressing this quality. The ‘endless’ corridors that extend through the interior of the long volume provide access to the office, drafting, management and conference rooms through doors that one can almost increase or decrease in number at will. Partition walls can easily be repositioned at about every two metres, depending on the need for larger or smaller rooms. In his description, the architect wrote that he aimed to introduce a pleasant, light atmosphere in the building, and that he attempted to express that everybody who worked inside the building belonged to one big ‘working community’. Hence ‘the regular rhythm’ of what is otherwise a wide diversity of workspaces.

Het Vrije Volk 17-11-1953

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Interior of the office of the city architect.Rotterdam City Archives

Today

The extension and renovation of the Stadstimmerhuis is one of the showpieces of the wave of new building development in the city centre. Apart from municipal departments, the new complex contains 91 apartments, which tower above the existing renovated building. The Timmerhuis replaces the now-demolished 1970s extension. A limited competition was held in 2009 to select an architect to design the new city offices. Five architects disputed the issue all the way to court: Mecanoo, SeARCH, Claus & Kaan, Meyer & Van Schooten, and OMA. The professional jury chose OMA, which had scored remarkably poorly in a public poll.

The original building by municipal architect J.R.A. Koops, a designated municipal monument since 2000, has been preserved and restored. And so too, therefore, is the plaque dedicated to Cornelis van Traa by sculptor Cor van Kralingen, which has graced the corner of Meent and Raam since 1980.

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