Katshoek Rotterdam

Rotterdam, NL

Can a monumental office building become a creative living space?



The ensemble on the Heer Bokelweg. Source: Wijnand Galema via the Nieuwe Instituut archive.

Design drawing by Maaskant, with characteristic sculptural quality. Source: Platform Wederopbouw / Nieuwe Instituut archive.

Source: Platform Reconstruction.

In the Agniesebuurt area of Rotterdam, the Zomerhof quarter (known as ZOHO) is being transformed from a business park into a vibrant district combining apartments, restaurants and shops. De Zwarte Hond was commissioned to transform the Katshoek building, designed by Hugh Maaskant, from a multi-tenant commercial building into a residential building with a lively plinth and a one-storey extension on top.

Built in 1969, the Katshoek building on the Heer Bokelweg in Rotterdam is part of a distinctive ensemble that also includes the Akragon building and the Graphisch Lyceum. The Heer Bokelweg was conceived as a link between the Schiekade and the Rottetracé. The buildings were designed to match the size and scale of this new, wide city boulevard. Now that the Katshoek is becoming part of a more vibrant living and working neighbourhood, with space for pedestrians and cyclists, more is needed from the building at eye level.

Not a typical Maaskant
Hugh Maaskant is one of Rotterdam’s post-war reconstruction architects. According to Maaskant expert Michelle Provoost, the Katshoek building is not a typical example of his work: “The façade in particular is very flat, which you don’t often see in Maaskant’s buildings. The façades of his buildings are usually very expressive.” The Katshoek building shows his love of America in its large scale. Also highly characteristic of his style is the interplay between planes and sculptural elements.

The Katshoek building after completion in 1969

The column structure of the Katshoek building appears highly adaptive. Photo: De Zwarte Hond.

Adaptive structure
Originally designed as a multi-tenant commercial building for offices and light industry, the Katshoek building is oversized and has a column structure based on a large 10-metre grid. The fact that the same structure can be used many decades later, converted into a residential complex, is a testament to the building’s adaptability. Its scale, robustness and beauty make this possible – a source of inspiration in the face of today’s challenges.

The building adapts to the changing context, connecting to the Hofbogen as a new linear park through Rotterdam Noord in the new ZOHO district. The Katshoek building meets the need for housing in the city centre is met, but also provides more room for creative spaces. It contains a variety of housing types; makers’ spaces, apartments and penthouses. The extra height of the building structure gives the homes a sense of spaciousness. Bicycle parking is solved by a ‘bicycle cathedral’.

The densification and heightening of this unique post-war manufacturing site leads to an adaptation of the buildings. At the same time, the immediate surroundings become more vibrant and the combination of apartments and catering facilities creates more variety. The functions change, but the original atmosphere remains. 

Restoring the architecture
De Zwarte Hond transformed the Katshoek with respect for the original design. Maaskant’s basic sketch with its striking sculptural quality is the guiding principle. The flatness of the façade will be retained, the heavily sculptural quality of the balconies, the so-called ‘links’, will be reduced, the staircases and the artwork will be renovated, and the plinth will be activated and given a rugged robustness with details at eye level.

The Katshoek building will be extended with an additional floor, in line with Maaskant’s design. This addition has the same flat profile and horizontal bands, but is made of polished aluminium, a material with a contemporary look. This brings out the unique qualities of the building even more.

1. The current building is a unique element in Maaskant’s work

2. Contrast between flat and sculptural in the façade. Distinctive open balconies as a hinge between the two wings of the building

3. Horizontal articulation of the floors

4. Visibility of vertical columns in the plinth

The distinctive sculptural profile of the Katshoek building is again recognizable

Grand proportions, gestures and distribution
A strong element in Maaskant’s design are the grand proportions, gestures and divisions. The play between flat and sculptural is a distinctive quality of the Katshoek building. We have made this visible again and emphasized it in the design, including in the window frames and plinths. The homes will have conservatories as an outdoor space, with a flat, detailed folding window. When closed, they match the flatness of the façade, but when opened they have an expressive sculptural quality.

A rugged, urban and industrial plinth

Maaskant’s design sketch of the entrance lobby of the Katshoek building. Source: Nieuwe Instituut archive (via Michelle Provoost)

A robust plinth and ‘hotel lobby’
The plinths are open and inviting, with makers’ spaces, in keeping with the industrial character, and Café Katshoek on the corner. This makes visible the vibrancy and manufacturing culture of the city, in keeping with the lively new function and changed context. The design is based on (archival) research into Maaskant’s work and the functional requirements of the new programming. The design respects and enhances the original design. The new, rugged-looking plinth is in keeping with the urban and industrial character of the building and adds to the flexibility and vibrancy at eye level. Large windows provide views into to the workshops and catering facilities and, from inside, onto the street. The characteristic entresols – Maaskant’s ‘plinth cross section’ – are reduced, as are the generous porticos, which improves the flow.

In his designs, Maaskant went all out with the entrances: they look like hotel lobbies. We will restore these lobbies to their former glory. Original elements that remain will be restored and elements that have been removed will be returned, based on archive drawings. The planter that continues from the inside to the outside (not realized at the time) has been reintroduced into the design.

Materialization: It is what it is
Characteristic of Maaskant’s buildings of this period is the use of luxurious materials. Frequently used materials include untreated concrete, steel and glass. In the Katshoek building, a limited palette of materials was used: natural stone, muschelkalk (shell limestone), (bush-hammered) concrete, glass, aluminium and steel. This palette will be retained.

Katshoek Rotterdam

In the Agniesiebuurt area of Rotterdam, the Zomerhof quarter (ZOHO) is being transformed from a business park into a vibrant district combining apartments, restaurants and shops. De Zwarte Hond was asked to transform the Katshoek building, designed by Hugh Maaskant, from a multi-tenant commercial building into a residential building with around 250 apartments, a lively plinth and a one-storey extension on top.

In the new design, De Zwarte Hond respectfully builds on the existing qualities of the Maaskant original, with its characteristic interplay of planes and sculptural elements. The flatness of the façade is retained, the strong sculptural profile of the balconies is reduced and the staircases and artworks are renovated. The plinth is activated, regaining its original robust quality and details. The previously introverted street scene is transformed into an open and lively living environment with maker spaces, eateries and a bicycle shed.

The generous design demonstrates the adaptability of the building, with its surplus providing the flexibility for conversion into residential accommodation. The building is crowned with a top layer of Maaskant’s design, featuring the same flat, horizontal bands, but in a different material, emphasizing the building’s unique qualities. In this way, the Katshoek building is prepared for many decades to come.


Katshoek Rotterdam
Rotterdam, NL
DubbeLL en XIOR Student Housing
Catering & Retail, Residential
Development Phase
Wijnand Galema, Platform Wederopbouw, Archief HNI
Stedenbouwkundig ontwerp: Echo
More info