Cars from the South: Turtle-1 and Gurgel

In the world as we know it, cars are designed and often manufactured in the Northern hemisphere. European automobiles are typically used for about a decade or two, and then commence a second life time of usually several decades in Africa. The opposite, however, also seems to be possible. Tijs van Boomen will present Turtle-1 on September 26 in Paradiso, Amsterdam. He describes how artists Melle Smets and Joost van Onna worked in an open air car workshop in Ghana, drew up plans for a new car and assembled it, from existing second-hand parts, in 6 weeks time.


That the developing world is able to make cars that are actually way cooler and more sustainable than our ‘normal’ manufacturers, was already proven in the 1970s, in Brazil. The ultra-light Gurgel series featured fibreglass body work, a VW Beetle chassis and an edgy design. Production stopped before the end of the millennium, but some examples can still be seen in the streets, like the G15 above.

Multi-use buildings – a city within the city #2

Groothandelsgebouw Rotterdam – construction works of new central train station

The 1950´s were clearly a rich period for multi-use buildings, as we have seen in São Paulo – ´Multi-use buildings – a city within the city #1´. The Groothandelsgebouw (Wholesale building) in Rotterdam was built from 1948 to 1953, at the edge of historic city center that had been destroyed in the war. The building, designed by Maaskant and Van Tijen, is now considered one of the key post-war icons in the Netherlands. Already during construction, in 1951, the first companies were operating from the Groothandelsgebouw. In the 1960´s, the new central railway station was built next to it, and along the same axis in the 1970´s until the 1990´s the Weena business district was developed.

Groothandelsgebouw around 1960 – construction of central railway station and mail terminal (left), Doelen concert hall and Lijnbaan housing+retail complex (top)

The building contains a plinth of shops and other public functions on street level, a grand café (´Engels´) at the most visible corner, a cinema (later auditorium ´Kriterion´) and terraces on the rooftop, many companies adding up to thousands of employees, and an ingenious system of ramps and elevators for delivery, parking and logistics.

In the last 2 years I have had the pleasure to work on the top floor of this building, with the spectacular view all the way to The Hague. During this period, the central train station was completely rebuilt and expanded. The Groothandelsgebouw, however, remains more or less as it was in the beginning. The most recent renovation, about 5 years ago, restored the facades to its original concrete color. It continues a multipurpose building, nowadays including creative businesses and foreign consulates, a kinder-garden and bike rental business.

Like many office buildings in The Netherlands, the building currently suffers from high vacancy rates, due to the economic crisis. But as the building is privately owned and already paid for, well located and maintained, the rent prices have not dropped yet. The result of this, is that most of the creative business have moved out over the last couple of years, in search for affordable rents. The only inhabitants of the building (one of the many units is an apartment), mr. and ms. Stolk, are still there.

Read more:
Archined (Dutch online architecture portal), when they left the building, earlier this year.

Shell building Rotterdam


Recently, Shell has left its former building at Hofplein in Rotterdam. Apart from a few minor tenants, the building is now vacant. Due to their experience with the nearby Schieblock, planning office ZUS has been commissioned to find new (temporary) users for the iconic building.

This week I gave a workshop at the thirteenth floor of the building, from where one has a spectacular view over central Rotterdam.

View over the BInnenrotte and Blaak. On the forefront, a monument marking the position of the old Delft Gate.

View over Weena and Hofplein

View over a social housing area near the train tunnel entrance – sometimes called ‘Legoland’

Mixed use block at Hofplein

Rooftops Rotterdam

Last weekend, during the Motel Mozaïque festival, Archi-guides gave tours over the rooftops of Rotterdam. Three groups started their tours simultaneously from Schouwburgplein. Our guide took us to the roof of a partially empty office building at Kruiskade, a rooftop kindergarden in the main shopping area and the top of the Kruisplein dwellings. At night, the Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam organized a rooftop screening at Delftseplein.


View over stripped office tower at the Coolsingel

View over the Lijnbaan shopping area and apartment blocks – a modernist monument, designed in the 1950’s by Van den Broek and Bakema

View over the Kop van Zuid – an port reuse project. Under construction, the Rotterdam Building, designed by OMA.

View over the old West of Rotterdam, with at the horizon the Erasmus medical center and Euromast.

Eye contact with another group of rooftop visitors

Calypso Rotterdam

Who hasn’t been to the Calypso site, in central Rotterdam, in the last 4 years, is in for a change. The modern dance palace and restaurant from the 50’s was demolished, together with the neighboring Paulus Church. In it’s place, the new Calypso has arisen, a massive block, fit for Rotterdam in scale, but with a somewhat strange facade, designed by the office of Will Alsop. The transformation of Calypso was part of the Rotterdam Central Station project.

In earlier days, the spot was well known for the restaurant Calypso & Felice, the jazz sessions and the Roller Disco. The building next door, the Paulus church, has also been demolished and rebuilt. It continues to organize indoor sleeping facilities for the homeless.