In the heart of bustling Delfshaven on the banks of the river Schie lay an old characteristic industrial complex located which has lost a lot of its luster and vibrancy in the course of the years. The by time grown together agglomeration of characteristic buildings has become in an almost irreversible process of decline by years of vacancy and neglection. The exterior of the former steam laundry has two distinctive faces. On the street side, a series of traditional houses, and on the river Schie-side a factory-look including a big masonry chimney.
The narrow collaboration of the involved parties pursued to preserve this monumental complex. The building needed a radical change to become a central place for the creative industries, in which young small businesses and self-employed who have outgrown their living room may establish.
The strategic design of Mei is based on the preservation of the still existing aesthetic, cultural, historical and constructive quality, whereas the collapsed and dilapidated areas are replaced by an atrium adding spatial (light, air and space) and programmatic quality. The atrium forms the “heart” of the building as a meeting place for entrepreneurs, including collective elements as lounges, meeting places and pantries. The leveled business units gather around the atrium and make use of the existing characteristic façade openings around which are retained. The additions that are made, such as the steel structure in the atrium, are minimalistic and possess a uniform color palette to maintain the spatial quality. Bronze facades, which fit into the streetscape, reveal te new addition. The atrium is topped by an industrial rooflight to complete the pure renovation of De Fabriek.
The completed complex contains 36 unique commercial spaces and a large hall that can host a range of activities. Also included are amenities for the neighbourhood, including two restaurants, a yoga studio and a creative out-of-school facility for children. Commercial spaces are flexible in layout and can be joined together if desired. A central, well-lit atrium occupies the place where the original middle section had collapsed and now forms the dynamic heart of the four-level factory. The atrium serves a range of purposes: circulation space (including stairs and a lift), public space with shared amenities such as lunch areas, meeting islands and swinging seats. Daylight penetrates deep into the building through the new glasshouse roof. Glazing sections between the commercial units and the atrium create an openness and transparency that facilitates maximum synergy with other occupants and stimulates collaboration.
The atrium makes use of the characteristic facade openings that have been preserved. Additions such as the steel structure in the atrium are minimalist and feature a uniform colour palette to preserve the existing spatial quality. Bronze-coloured facades that harmonise with the streetscape characterise the new additions. Crowning the atrium is an industrial glasshouse roof that can be opened in the summer. Many of the materials used, such as plasterboard, steel and glass, are sustainable and recyclable and come with Cradle-to-Cradle certifications. De Fabriek responds optimally to the needs of local young entrepreneurs thanks to the functional and flexible rental units, as evidenced by the waiting list for new tenants. The success of neighbourhood amenities also illustrates the strong local anchoring in the Delfshaven district.