Timmerhuis – a new mixed-use building that will house Rotterdam’s municipal offices and the Museum Rotterdam, conceived by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) – opened its doors to the public on the 11th December 2015. Situated in the city’s Laurenskwartier neighborhood, fifty percent of Timmerhuis is occupied by office space; the rest contains residential, retail, parking and the museum. Its innovative structural system allows for adaptability while providing the city with a large public space on the ground floor.
For Rotterdam’s Timmerhuis, 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 surrounding historical context. OMA’s Timmerhuis is a 48,400 m2 complex in the center of Rotterdam, commissioned by the City of Rotterdam (Gemeente), the building’s only office tenant. Constructed in steel, Timmerhuis is erected alongside and nestled within the existing Stadstimmerhuis (a municipal building, from 1953), which surrounds it on two sides. The exterior façade of the old building is used as an interior wall, and the two buildings literally merge. The cantilevering steel structure allows the uninterrupted unfolding of public space on the ground floor, home to a large public passage and the museum.
The Timmerhuis’s innovative structural system generates maximum efficiency and versatility as both construction and program units can adapt to either office space or residential parameters. 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 Timmerhuis and the city.
The design brief stipulated that the Timmerhuis 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 triple-glazed curtain wall facade uses hi-tech translucent insulation that allows for unprecedented energy efficiency.
Rather than being yet another statement in Rotterdam’s crowded history of revisionist planning and cacophony of architectural styles, the ambiguous mass of the Timmerhuis tries to mediate between the existing buildings surrounding it. The axis between the existing town hall and the post office coincides with the axis of symmetry of the Timmerhuis, and the street between these two buildings continues into a passageway to the Haagseveer. The Timmerhuis integrates with the neighbouring Stadtimmerhuis by maintaining the same floor heights, while the plinth height of 20m conforms to the character of the surrounding Laurenskwartier.
Reinier de Graaf, partner at OMA and project leader for Timmerhuis, said:
“We are very proud of Timmerhuis. Rather than adding another grand statement to Rotterdam’s ecology of successive architectural convictions, the typical mass of Timmerhuis seeks to subtly negotiate between the architectures of the buildings surrounding it.”
In addition to its public functions, Timmerhuis offers new ways of living in the city. Apartments have large room-sized terraces, allowing rooftop gardens and outdoor living in the centre of the city, at a scale typically reserved for penthouses or suburban homes. All 84 of the building’s moderately-priced apartments have been sold prior to the opening.
Timmerhuis is the only mixed-use building in the Netherlands to have achieved the BREEAM level of excellence, the highest score for sustainability. This attitude is carried through in the building’s further use: BMW is currently collaborating with new residents to develop a car-sharing system for the building.
This is what Reinier de Graaf – Project Leader and Partner at OMA – has to say about Timmerhuis:
“Today’s Rotterdam is an ecology of successive architectural convictions over time: the modernism of the post-war reconstruction; the humanism of the seventies; the post-modernism of the eighties; high-rise buildings and the compact city in the nineties and a sort of “free for all” in the new millennium.
Rather than adding yet another grand statement, Timmerhuis attempts a constructive ‘surrender’ to the city’s present state. The building’s formless, seemingly improvised composition acts as an echo of the city’s mood. It creates the possibility of different experiences: from the Coolsingel, viewed between the Town Hall and the Post Office, the building appears nearly symmetrical, monumental even… on the other side, in relation to the existing monument, the same building appears delicate and accommodating.
The cantilevering steel structure allows the uninterrupted unfolding of public space on the ground floor, home to a large public passage and the new location for the Museum Rotterdam.”