Brinkman & Van der Vlugt
The buildings were designed by architect Leendert van der Vlugt from the Brinkman & Van der Vlugt office in cooperation with civil engineer J.G. Wiebenga, at that time a specialist for constructions in reinforced concrete, and built between 1925 and 1931. It is an example of Nieuwe Bouwen, modern architecture in the Netherlands. It was commissioned by the co-owner of the Van Nelle company, Kees van der Leeuw, on behalf of the owners. Van der Leeuw and both company-directors, Matthijs de Bruyn and Bertus Sonneveld, were so impressed by the skills of Van der Vlugt they commissioned him to design and build private houses for themselves in Rotterdam and nearby Schiedam between 1928 and 1932. The fully renovated Sonneveld House is now a museum in the center of Rotterdam, with more than 30,000 annual visitors from all over the world.
In the 20th century it was a factory, processing coffee, tea and tobacco and later on additional chewing gum, cigarettes, instant pudding and rice. The operation stopped in 1996. Initially after the renovation it was known as the Van Nelle Design Factory (“Van Nelle Ontwerpfabriek” in Dutch). More recently, the narrow focus on tenants in the design and architecture sectors has been abandoned and currently the building houses a wide variety of companies and a modern co-working space. Some of the areas are used for meetings, conventions and events.
Eric Gude, a Dutch specialist in the conversion of former industrial sites, planned and organized this change of use for the Van Nelle factory in 1997 and introduced Wessel de Jonge, an authority on the renovation of modern architecture in 1999, to coordinate the overall renovation, which began in the year 2000.
The Van Nelle Factory shows the influence of Russian Constructivism. Mart Stam, who worked during 1926 as employee-designer at the Brinkman & Van der Vlugt office in Rotterdam, came in contact with the Russian Avant-Garde in 1922 in Berlin. In 1926 Mart Stam organized an architecture tour of the Netherlands for the Russian artist El Lissitzky and his wife Sophie Küppers, collector of avant-garde art. They visited Jacobus Oud, Cornelis van Eesteren, Gerrit Rietveld, and other artists. It is claimed that the building featured the first industrially prefabricated curtain wall in the world.