revitalization of a national monument
The Slaakhuys, located at Slaak 34-38 in Rotterdam, was the former editorial office and printworks of the Vrije Volk newspaper. It was built in 1952-1954 to a commission from the Arbeiderspers publishing company by the architects J.J.M. Vegter and P.A. Leupen. In 2010 the Slaakhuys was selected as one of the top 100 buildings valued as recognised sites of post-war heritage. In recent years the building has fallen into disrepair owing to vacancy and squatting. Stichting Havensteder, owner of the structure, is now working to redevelop the building.
In addition to a concept for redevelopment and a plan to restore the facade, Mei architects and planners was commissioned by Stichting Havensteder to draw up a vision for the entire restoration. The aim of this vision is to establish a restoration framework for (future) interventions and transformations of the Slaakhuys.
The Slaakhuys is noteworthy as one of the first heritage sites dating from the post-war period of reconstruction, and is known for its expressive details and components. These have been meticulously described in the new method developed by Mei architects and planners, enabling the restoration of the facade while ensuring the preservation of the original architecture. Mei is also applying this instrument and the expertise it has acquired in the area of materials and building technology on the Lijnbaan shopping precinct in Rotterdam, which is another designated heritage site from the post-war reconstruction period. The office is therefore capable of devising an integral method that can be applied more often to ensure a building’s rebirth as well as the preservation of its identity.
The maintenance work carried out in restoring the facade of the Slaakhuys focused on preserving the structure and preventing further decline. A restoration approach was applied in places where the work directly touched original elements, such as the parapets and pivot windows. Interior elements and areas that are characteristic of post-war reconstruction architecture have been identified. These may not be altered in the process of preparing the building for office and retail use. The restoration work is also aimed at making the building flexible, ensuring it can accommodate future change while also ensuring that its history remains tangible.