Van Nelle Fabriek: Functionalism in Rotterdam

Van Nelle Fabriek is a prime example of the functionalist ‘Nieuwe Bouwen’ and proud UNESCO World Heritage site. Renown around the globe for its progressive design, that gives new meaning to light and space.


This unique factory built in 1931, is the definitive venue in Rotterdam for businesses, events and culture. Already home base to over 80 large companies and smaller enterprises, the Van Nelle Factory also hosts countless local, national and international conferences and networking events. A unique environment, spacious and light, offering a tangibly dynamic setting.



In 1923, Van Nelle’s progressive managing director Kees van der Leeuw commissioned the construction of an ingenious, cutting-edge factory complex that would incorporate a comprehensive range of employee facilities. In Brinkman & van der Vlugt’s ingenious design, all facilities are built into the main complex and all of it stands above ground to maximise light, air and space. The building was added to the national register of historic buildings in 1986, but was irrevocably destined for demolition if no solid buyer was found. The Van Nelle Fabriek produced coffee, tea, and tobacco products until 1995. In 1998, Sara Lee endorsed the ambitious renovation plans of an enthusiastic group of developers. The building was adapted to the new preferences and demands of modern society so it could once again be used as a high-powered and dynamic hub, this time for creative professionals.

The Van Nelle Factory attracted international attention as soon as it was completed. Acclaimed architect and photographer duo Robertson and Yerbury called it ‘a poem in steel and glass’. The world-famous architect Le Corbusier even praised its ‘purity and uncompromising clarity’. That public appreciation has never gone away. Quite the opposite, in fact – in 2014, the Van Nelle Factory was the 10th Dutch site to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Open to public since October this year, it is now home to a diverse array of businesses in the field of media and design. With twelve rooms available for meetings, congresses and events, visitors will also be able to visit a range of exhibitions and presentations. The exhibition ‘Simultaneity of Modernity’ devoted to Rotterdam and Dessau, now on display on the seventh floor, sheds light on the origins of modernism in both cities, its most important protagonists and their designs.









All photos and info Van Nelle Fabriek

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