The Van Nelle Fabriek, the first daylight factory in Europe, was the most modern manufacturing plant in the Netherlands. A paragon of functionalism. A structure of concrete, not brick. With columns, not load-bearing walls. With its steel and glass facade and work floor bathed in natural light, the building was designed to energise.
Healthy, happy workers
The Van Nelle Fabriek was also a leading light when it came to the welfare of its workers. Sports fields were provided for recreation, a factory garden where staff could take lunch breaks, and the latest sanitation facilities for personal hygiene. For the first time, people were able to take daily showers at work instead of a weekly bath in a zinc tub – unprecedented luxury.
In 1932, one of the greatest architects of the twentieth century, the Swiss Le Corbusier, visits the Van Nelle Fabriek. He is wildly enthusiastic: “In Rotterdam you find astonishing evidence of the way that life will be! Of a purity, so unconditionally pure!”.
The stories were also kept along with the factory
About the Tearoom with a view of the bombed city where city planners came up with Rotterdam’s reconstruction plan. The slanting walkways that connect the factory and warehouse that were actually meant to be straight. The strictly segregated staircases for female and male staff. The secret corridor for the inspector. The Van Nelle Fabriek reads like an adventure novel.
From functionalist to multifunctional
The Van Nelle Fabriek is still the most modern factory in the Netherlands. Renovated in 2002, and awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2014. Environmentally responsible and sustainably operated: grey water, green electricity, waste separation, LED lighting. For our environmental standards, we were awarded the A-label for a sustainably managed historic building, and the leading standard for excellence in the field, the Golden Green Key award or, as we call it: The Sustainability Oscar!