Rotterdam is continually evolving. The city is famed for its great diversity of 20th-century architecture as well as its newer ultramodern buildings. In this article, we shine a spotlight on one of Rotterdam Central District’s iconic buildings. This time on the Groot Handelsgebouw (GHG).
The monumental building forms a unique contrast to the modern architecture of Rotterdam. The icon of the reconstruction of the city, an open and outward-facing, multitenant building. The design was huge, especially by Dutch standards: 220 x 85 metres and 43 metres high. The grand scale of GHG was symbolic for the new dimensions of the city: this is what the ‘new’ Rotterdam ought to look like.
14 May 1940. Rotterdam’s inner city was bombed and 388,000 m2 of commercial space was lost. Many entrepreneurs could not afford new offices. World War II was not over, but entrepreneur Frits Pot conceived the idea to combine forces and made a first rough sketch of a multi-business building. Shortly after World War II, these plans were realised.
Architectural office Van Tijen en Maaskant was instructed to design the GHG. GHG owes its success to the visionary design by Huig Maaskant (1907-1977). For the design of the largest multitenant business building in the Netherlands, he drew inspiration from the largest multi-business building in the world. He travelled to Chicago to visit the Merchandise Mart. This building was exactly what Maaskant was looking for; impressive architecture, its own transport system and a design aimed at wholesalers.
The building was completely renovated in 2005. Despite its impressive exterior, GHG has proven to be a multi-purpose building. Spaces that once housed wholesalers (groot handelaren) are now occupied by Kleinhandel; a co-working space focused on small creative and tech entrepreneurs (klein handelaren). The Cambridge Innovation Centre (CIC) also established their first European office at GHG in 2016.
The ground floor houses several dining experiences, including Lebkov & Sons, VINN Rotterdam, De Nieuwe Poort, The Poke Box, Altijd In De Buurt, Ellis and a new food hall concept in the making.