Rotterdam is continually evolving. The city is famed for its great diversity of 20th-century architecture, as well as its newer ultramodern structures. In each issue, we shine a spotlight on one of Rotterdam Central District’s iconic buildings. This time, on Hofplein 19. With this year marking the 50th anniversary of its architect C.A. Abspoel’s death, now is the perfect time to take a closer look at this marvellous structure.
Hofplein 19 was originally the headquarters of Shell. C.A. Abspoel was a natural choice to supply the design, being Shell’s company architect. Initially conceived as a five-storey office, it ultimately became the nine-story building we see now. The project broke ground in December 1957 and in August 1960 the opening celebration was held with Mayor van Walsum presiding. Shell’s arrival in the Central District immediately enhanced the port city’s standing.
The construction material chosen for Hofplein 19 was robust reinforced concrete. Because of the location, the whole building was soundproofed so workers wouldn’t be disturbed by the noise of trains and traffic. To stabilize the concrete frame, the building got heavy side walls, a north wall and concrete lift. The offices were connected by stairwells on either end of a central hall. Inside was a multitude of artworks, but the Shell logo had pride of place on the façade.
Shell left the building in 1999, and at first it proved a difficult space to lease. These days, however, it is home to four stellar businesses and corporations. On the outside, a lot has changed over the years. In 1989 a mirror-glass façade was added. A 2018 renovation by the firm OZ architect replaced this with a transparent glass façade and also opened up the interior space. Now, visitors are welcomed into a modern glass pavilion.
basement, ground floor and 9 storeys
Shell, until 1999
Current main tenants:
Unilever Nederland, Fontein, Laatbloeien and RHI Magnesita
Do you want to read more about this building, take a look at wederopbouwrotterdam.nl
TEXT Céline Boute
PHOTOGRAHY Lex de Herder, Stadsarchief Rotterdam / © Herbert Behrens, Nationaal Archief