IMd Offices, Rotterdam
IMd had its sights set on one thing and one thing only: to be the most adventurous engineering consultancy in the Netherlands. It needed new premises to realise this ambition, and wanted it to be something far removed from the instantly forgettable cookie-cutter offices that line the country’s highways. It needed something that would act as both calling card and hotbed of creativity. They found just the place on the Piekstraat in the Feijenoord district of Rotterdam: a former steel plant overlooking the Maas river. Having worked closely with IMd on a long list of projects over the years, EHA was commissioned to produce a cost-effective and sustainable design for the building’s transformation. The outcome, a playground for engineers that has been widely praised by architecture magazines worldwide.
Name IMd Office
Client IMd Consulting Engineers
Status Completed summer 2011
Architect Ector Hoogstad Architects
Building physics consultant LBP Sight
Contractor De Combi
Electrical installation Unica
Fixed furnishings Interior architects L.P. van Vliet (sub-contractor of De Combi)
Furniture design Ector Hoogstad Architects
Installation design Unica
Structural consultant IMd Consulting Engineers
Photography Petra Appelhof
Keeping it raw
The design takes full advantage of the imposing steel skeleton of the original building. But one of the biggest challenges presented by industrial spaces on a scale like this is how to create adequately heated workstations without having to insulate the entire building. That would not only have been prohibitively expensive, but would also have compromised the building’s industrial character. A much simpler yet effective solution was found: a series of energy-efficient, climatized pavilions dotted like islands around the old building, which thereby enabled the preservation of its raw appeal.
Two new pavilions with separate workstations were located against the blind rear walls, to enable their occupants look out onto the open cavity at the heart of the premises. Large windows installed in what used to be a closed facade, in combination with floor-to-ceiling interior glass walls that run the length of the work areas, facilitate an abundance of natural light and offer magnificent panoramas over the river. Dotted about the hall are smaller climatized pavilions with conference areas.
Visually and spatially engaging
The height of the cavity allowed for an extra storey, which features footbridges and terraces that connect to all the pavilions and enable employees to work, hold meetings or simply stop for a chat against a backdrop of the original steel trusses and crane tracks. Multiple sets of stairs run between the ground floor and the first, with the one extra-wide one nearest the entrance designed to double as a venue for lectures and presentations. The transformation has rendered the space more visually and spatially engaging, the original attributes have been supplemented with new sightlines and views, and the industrial character of the old plant has been given a new lease of life.
The building consumes minimal amounts of energy and uses what it needs smartly. It is also built according to the principles of circular design. Thus, the concrete floors, façade masonry and steel skeleton are all from the original building and have simply been cleaned for reuse. Circular principles are also reflected in the simplicity of the new additions. For instance, the steel load-bearing structures of the pavilions are structurally sound yet incredibly lightweight, thus enabling the pre-existing floor to bear the weight of the additions without further reinforcement. Raw scaffolding wood and recyclable plastic sheeting are used for stairs and internal walls, respectively, the latter’s translucency diffusing and softening incident light in the daytime and making the spotlit pavilions glow like lanterns in the evenings. The effect of both is a dreamy air that contrasts beautifully with the weathered steel and raw concrete floor.
The printed pavilion
A new pavilion is currently in the works, to provide additional space for the firm’s executives. Designed with the aid of parametric software, it will be 3D printed from recyclable PET material and assembled on one of the crane tracks. Its paraboloid shape has been optimised to ensure a high degree of structural strength from minimal material. The result will be self-supporting, lightweight and completely translucent.
The Piekstraat was a largely forgotten pocket of the city when they moved there, but IMd’s headquarters will shortly be flanked by newly built residential towers. Will it manage to hold its own as an unconventional office building in a sea of new residential developments? Who knows? But for the time being, this old factory is very much alive again.