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A Future for the Poortgebouw




In 1980 the Poortgebouw was officially registered for the function of youth housing. Since that time much has changed; in the Poortgebouw itself, in the surrounding district "Kop van Zuid", in the city of Rotterdam as well. Built in 1879 when the area was a bustling harbor, the Poortgebouw still stands proud within this constant transformation. But some things haven't changed. Since the last renovation between 1982 and 1984, very little structural maintenance has taken place causing the building to have lost a bit of its allure.

In 2001 the Rotterdam Housing Corporation (WBR), the owner at that time, sold the Poortgebouw without the knowledge of its inhabitants to the project developer "de Groene Groep". This party wants to evict the 30-person living group and transform the Poortgebouw into expensive office space.

Legal proceedings have been running for over three years now. As the inhabitants association filed for appeal against the negative verdict in Municipal Court, this dispute can still go on for quite some time.

The inhabitants association is well aware that the Poortgebouw – a national monument – is in need of renovation. However, the inhabitants want to show that this is possible with the current collective housing and cultural functions. Together with Tussen-Ruimte Architects and a team of external professional advisors, they have developed their own renovation plan.


The Vision

Since 1980 the Poortgebouw has been home to several generations of individuals active in a variety of artistic, social, cultural, and technical fields. The Poortgebouw makes it possible to combine living and working as a collective and thereby fulfills a cultural "breeding ground" function on a local and international level. Living and working in the Poortgebouw is a way of life: a dynamic made possible through cooperation, mutual inspiration, and a do-it- yourself mentality, which leads to diverse artistic and cultural activities open to a broader public.

The inhabitants of the Poortgebouw and their numerous supporters are of the opinion that this model of living and working is unique in Rotterdam and is of great societal and cultural value, also in the future.

A central question is whether the Poortgebouw needs to be redeveloped into offices when there is already far too much office space (a structural 15% over-supply), or should it be preserved as a cultural breeding ground for Rotterdam? The latter is a function which would be further strengthened by a renovation and fit perfectly in the image of Rotterdam as a "City of Culture" and bolster the development of the creative economy which the city council desires.

The direct involvement and collectivity of the inhabitants remain the departure point in the alternative plan. The combination of working and living is sustained albeit with clearer spatial and legal separation. In this manner, the quality of living space is strengthened and the activities can be more open to the public than is currently the case. In the future the Poortgebouw inhabitants association wants to assume a more prominent place in Rotterdam as a "creative city" and broaden its local and international network of collaborators.


The vision for the Poortgebouw consists of four interlocking cornerstones:

1. Collective Living:
In the future the Poortgebouw will offer living space for approximately 20 people of diverse professional and cultural backgrounds. The collective aspect of the living space is emphasized in shared kitchens, bathrooms, and the living and recreational room.

2. Breeding Ground:
This term refers to offering space for creative and innovative professionals who do not yet have sufficient economic basis. The Poortgebouw has been an exemplary illustration of the necessity of such spaces since the beginning. In the future the inhabitants want to offer rooms for rental to small start-up collectives, organizations, and businesses. To individuals and groups for whom affordability is an important factor, so that they have the economic space to develop and experiment. There will be artist studios, workspaces, offices, and a recording studio. It is also the intention to professionalize the current eetcafé into a café and meeting place for a diverse audience.

3. Affordability:
The provision of (youth) housing remains one of the departure points in the plan, and it must remain affordable. This is possible, for example, when the inhabitants and users are responsible for the maintenance and financial management within the building (excluding structural maintenance).

4. Self-Management:
Self-management is characterized by collective decision-making and problem-solving, transparency and the division of tasks, shared responsibility and reward. Inherent to self-management and cooperation is the sharing of knowledge and experience, whereby each individual has the opportunity to apply their own talents. A democratic way of working is central. The contribution from the individual inhabitants or users to self-management is required as part of the rent contract and thereby a central element of the living collective and breeding ground.


The intention is for the Poortgebouw to be an attractive place for diverse target groups. The main manifestation of this ambition in the plan is the new riverside café, which includes a podium, a water terrace, and a public garden with a playground for children.

This plan cannot be realized in its entirety by the inhabitants association on their own. Financial partners have be found who are willing to buy the Poortgebouw and collaborate on this renovation plan to sustain and develop the current collective living and breeding ground functions. They will become partners in the new organizational structure. But the big question still remains: Can the current owner either be convinced to collaborate on this vision or to sell the Poortgebouw to a willing partner?