Humans of Central District: Frido van Nieuwamerongen
TEXT: BIANCA WIJNSTEKERS-HANDY | PHOTOGRAPHY: ANTIM
“Humans, the planet and a positive stance are at the heart of all our projects,” says Frido van Nieuwamerongen of Arconiko Architecten in his office right opposite Rotterdam Central Station.
Rotterdam it is Van Nieuwamerongen, one of the founders of the architect agency in 1990, says that “After some twists and turns, I ended up in Rotterdam in 1992 after graduating in Architecture at Delft. I get on well with Rotterdammers. They are famously direct, but they have a soft heart. And the city is a wonderful multicultural melting pot.”
That Van Nieuwamerongen, who comes from the east of the Netherlands, feels at home in Rotterdam is apparent from the fact that the agency moved into the Groot Handelsgebouw 14 years ago. It was one of the few companies that did so and the area around the building was a construction site. “The building was completely empty. Nobody wanted to locate there. The ceilings were collapsing, the station was being built right outside, tram tracks were being laid and the metro tunnel was being bored. But I thought it was wonderful! The footpaths changed every day and to my ears, the building noises were music!”
Two birds with one stone Humans in balance with the earth underlie all his designs. “Why would you only go for technical solutions? Why not involve residents and try to help nature? In the district of Lombardijen for example, we were asked to come up with a plan to tackle flooding. So we thought about it and then arranged a meeting with the neighborhood one afternoon. We proposed to plant more trees and create a kitchen garden as these absorb a lot of water. The bottom line: the residents get something in return for the temporary disruptions that the building work brought, there was greater neighborhood cohesion and nature got a helping hand. Everyone benefitted.”
Optimistic architect “This may only be a small project, but it is a good example of what our agency tries to achieve, and that is long-term connections that make people’s lives better. We want win-win situations. We are including these type of connections in our proposals for a climate-adaptive Rotterdam Central District. I am sure that we will create a district that is better for the environment and better for humans.”