Urban High-Rise Density

Transformation of a monofunctional inner-city area in Rotterdam

The plan designed by KCAP for the Wijnhaveneiland in Rotterdam is a sustainable future-oriented transformation concept thanks to a tailor-made densification strategy that provides vivid programm...

  • Municipality of Rotterdam, dS+V
  • 1996 -
  • Ongoing
  • 40.000 m2 Flexible masterplan, transformation of a living, working and leisure area
  • Masterplan
  • Photography: Ossip van Duivenbode
  • ARCH+, nr. 122, June, 1994
  • Cobouw
  • De Ingenieur, nr. 8, August 2019
  • Landscape Architecture and Urban Design in the Netherlands Yearbook, December 2018
  • NovaTerra, nr. 2, June 2002
  • From monofunctionality to diversity

    In 1993 KCAP was commissioned to produce an urban planning study for Wijnhaven Island, a triangular area between Rotterdam's city centre and the River Maas, strategically located in the Maritime District. It consisted mainly of monofunctional office buildings from the 1950s, but it was Rotterdam's wish to strengthen the residential function of the area. The buildings' adaptation proved to be a typological and financial problem and was therefore not taken up by the market. Building regulations have been developed for the area that balances stimulating market forces and the desired urban appearance.

    The decisive difference with a prescriptive masterplan is that our separate set of rules does not restrict developers and architects too much in their creative freedom.
    Irma van Oort, Parter KCAP
  • An open-ended strategy

    The proposed dynamic transformation model for the Wijnhaven Island is a zoning scheme to balance out the market's demand for maximum building capacity and safeguarding a quality standard for the urban appearance. It is not a design but an open-ended strategy, a variant of the American' zoning laws' – an attitude of laissez-faire. 

    The model's development rules ensure a balance between new and existing development and satisfactory views and sunlight levels on the island itself. The regulations stipulate that the current block structure must be maintained up to a height of 20 metres. As an essential testcase for the later municipal high-rise vision, this concept was referred to as the 'Rotterdam layer'. High rise buildings may be built above this level under certain conditions. These conditions concern ownership boundaries, daylight access, sunlight, views, setbacks, and wind nuisance. The internal spaces in the buildings have the greatest possible flexibility to allow programmatic recycling.

  • Coexistence of urban functions

    Over a period of more than 20 years, the Wijnhaveneiland in Rotterdam is undergoing an incremental redevelopment based on the dynamic transformation model designed by KCAP. At the moment, the last towers are under construction. Thus the completion of this densification strategy is near. In the final situation, the density of the program on the Wijnhaveneiland will have tripled. The focus is here on how to organise density as structural quality improvement. How can more buildings generate more quality of life for all residents? In addition to social blending, an essential factor here is the coexistence of urban functions.

    Wijnhaven Island has proven over the years to be a sustainable future-oriented transformation concept for Rotterdam's Maritime District thanks to a tailor-made densification strategy that provides vivid programming creating a lively 24/7 neighbourhood. By transforming the area's aspect thanks to more and diverse volumes and a new concept for the public space, a coherent and renewed city district has emerged with its striking appearance and characteristic manifestation in the Rotterdam skyline, not to forget our iconic Red Apple Tower.