Adaptive reuse of former storage attic located above the Upfield production facilities in Rotterdam. JDWA transformed a large unused attic and empty floors of the adjacent villa into new comfortable office spaces with a view over the river Maas. This challenging transformation creates an office space with characteristic spatial qualities by merging the old and the new.
The development of the existing factory complex on the southbank of the Maas in Rotterdam started in 1891. Since then the factory has expanded through organic growth to keep up with the changes and demands of the ever renewing production processes. This results in a historical layered cityscape with cultural value for the city of Rotterdam.
In 2017 Unilever demerged the margarine- and spreads department which continued as an independent company named Upfield. The buildings on the Nassaukade site had to be reorganized and divided between the two companies. JDWA worked on several projects and interventions in the existing factory complex to create a new logic and organization for the site. The aims were to optimize space use to provide room for offices, research facilities, logistics and production, as well as maintain the historical and cultural valued cityscape.
The ground floors of the site stay in use as factories for different products, logistics areas and warehouses. The upper floors were vacant or underused. In this project we investigated which building parts could be reused for the new office programs. In this way, the entire process from research to production and distribution is organized locally, within the urban context of Rotterdam. The unused space in attic and middle floors of the first building built on site (1891) and the 3 upper floors of the Villa (1915) provided opportunities to relocate offices.
These unused areas in the historical buildings are reconnected and transformed into a comfortable and high-quality offices in different areas. All interventions represent the companies ambition to work differently. Individual offices are reduced to the minimum and different levels are interconnected in order to create the sense of community. The Attic was redesigned with Upfield’s values in mind. The interiors are designed in close collaboration with the company’s representatives responsible for the visual identity and branding. The ambition was to create a creative and dynamic workspace by activating the standard office program with a mix of formal and informal meeting spaces for agile working. Because of the special kind of work Upfield does, also kitchens and tasting counters are part of the program. These kitchens, for testing new products, are integrated in the concept of working environment. To translate all these dynamics into a plan we challenged the standard office layout and designed the meeting rooms as furniture pieces. These furniture pieces are placed in the open space to create zones of various sizes. This results in spaces for special functions and transforms the open space into a diverse working environment.
The connection between the different floor levels is realized by inserting a large void in the core of the plan, where the two buildings meet. In this way a visual connection is created. A large wooden staircase connects the different levels. The wall in between the Attic and the Villa has been cleaned and large glass windows and doors are placed to provide access to the void. Shared facilities and a meeting room are placed in the void to activate this special space. The main landscape office is located on the top floor under the double pitched roofs. A connecting zone is introduced in the center of the space where the furniture pieces with meeting rooms, informal meeting rooms and shared facilities are placed. This zone divides the attic floor in several zones with unique spatial qualities.
To provide daylight on the top a part of the roof has been replaced with glass offering light inside the building and have a spectacular view over the river Maas for the employees. The second roof is opened up by placing two large dormers on the backside. The centre zone gets its light by carefully designed skylights. To optimise the use of space, the walls of the furniture pieces are multifunctional as they have functions like telephone booths, lockers, reproduction spaces, product displays and space for technical installations integrated inside them. The bold and robust details in the interior complies with the scale of the furniture pieces and emphasizes the contrast between the new interventions and the existing buildings. The applied wood and the numerous plants represent Upfield’s plant based philosophy.
Sustainability has been a main issue during the design process. Through intensive reuse, relocation of functions and transformation the building use has been optimized. By combining all offices on one site, lots of flexibility is created. The existing building shell has been fully insulated and new window frames with high insulating glass are placed. In addition to the energetic upgrade of the buildings’ shell, new sustainable installations are implemented. The excessive heat, a by-product of the production process of the underlying factory, is reused to heat up the office space. And by ensuring that more daylight enters the building, a qualitative working environment is created and energy is saved at the same time.
The various interventions in the existing, the intensive renovation of the buildings exteriors and the new interventions in the interiors will extend the life of the buildings. A contemporary office environment has been created without losing the historical character of the existing building.
Architect: Johan De Wachter Architecten, Rotterdam
Client: Upfield Office (Rotterdam)
Address and Location: Nassaukade, 3071 JL Rotterdam, NL
Program: Transformation of the existing factory into a contemporary office space.
Team: Marieke van Hensbergen, Johan De Wachter, Heejin Chung
Photographer: Sonia Mangiapane