Interior, Working

Originally designed by Dutch architect Wim Quist as the headquarters of the Nedlloyd Company, Willemswerf is one of the most iconic office buildings in Rotterdam. In 2012, Powerhouse Company was commissioned to redesign the ground and first floors as the first phases of a larger project that will update each of the 24 storeys by 2020.

Despite the high quality of the original building, which was completed in 1988, some sections had become outdated, and therefore could not meet today’s new workplace demands. The main strategy was to introduce the concept of a serviced hotel-style environment to match the new identity of the building, which had evolved from a single occupant head office to a multi-tenant commercial building.


The Willemswerf office building by Wim Quist

The lobby before the redesign

Retaining the essence

The original architecture

One of our main ambitions was to preserve the distinctive character of the original architecture. Wim Quist is considered a major post-war architect, and his rationalist yet poetic structures have hugely impacted Rotterdam’s skyline. Our discussions with Quist informed our decision to retain and enhance the existing geometric grid as the building’s main organisational element and accentuate the totality of the design, where the materials, detailing and spatial expression are fully integrated in every room.


A new identity

Multipurpose lobby

The lobby needed a complete refurbishment to accommodate the needs of a multi-tenant building, namely for a more flexible use. Our approach emulates a high-end hotel environment that creates an appealing ground floor to attract future tenants. Accordingly, we transformed the lobby into a lively shared space that combines a foyer, restaurant and coffee bar, and also the canteen which was previously located on the fifth floor. 

The ‘hotel’ experience starts at the basement drop-off: here a glass wall opens up the entrance with views through the drop-down spiral staircase leading up to the open ground floor lobby, where the tapered light-filled space overlooks the river Maas.


The tapered space overlooking the river Maas

The coffee bar

The cantine

Reviving spatial quality

Strategic interventions

Removing superfluous elements from the lobby returned the clear lines and perspectives of the design to the forefront. At the side of the double-height foyer, the addition of a mirrored wall enhances the angled geometry of Quist’s design. We complemented the cool elegance of the existing architecture by adding warm, luxurious materials to create a more welcoming and tactile atmosphere.

After years of deterioration and dwindling occupancy, the building is reactivated through a series of strategic interventions that retain its strong spatial identity and adapt it to meet the contemporary demands of a multi-tenant office building.

  • Time span
    2012 – 2020
  • Type
    Interior, Working
  • Status
  • Client
    ASR Vastgoed Vermogensbeheer
  • Location
    Rotterdam, the Netherlands
  • Size
  • Budget
  • Partner in charge
    Nanne de Ru
  • Project leader
    Sander Apperlo
  • Team
    Nanne de Ru, Sander Apperlo, Stefan Prins, Marco Overwijk, Koen van den Dungen, Donna van Milligen Bielke, Paul Valeanu, Maud Gossink
  • Structural engineering
    Royal Haskoning DHV
  • Installation Engineerin
    Herman de Groot Ingenieurs
  • Imagery
    Kim Zwarts