KAAN is a Rotterdam architectural firm that was brought in by Manhave for the redevelopment of The Lobby, the former Crystal House. We spoke with Vincent Panhuysen, partner (1964) and Timo Cardol, managing architect (1986).
Love the City
8 March 2022
By Lisanne Van Beurden
KAAN Architecten is a Dutch architectural firm based in Rotterdam, led by Kees Kaan, Dikkie Scipio and Vincent Panhuysen. With a head office in Rotterdam, the agency has branches in São Paulo (since 2015) and Paris (since 2019).
KAAN designed the Zalmhaven Towers II and III in Rotterdam and renovated the monumental Dream House building on the Lijnbaan, the new building for the Amsterdam District Court in Amsterdam, the extension of Terminal A at Schiphol Airport, and the renovation of the National Museum Paleis Het Loo.
The office operates globally and focuses on architecture, urban design and research. The office has an international team of architects, landscape architects, urban planners, engineers and graphic designers.
Collaboration Manhave and KAAN Architecten
Manhave Vastgoed and KAAN Architecten regularly collaborate. Why is this the case?
Vincent: "We have a match with Manhave, because we like to approach things from the inside out, so not from a preconceived idea, but from the question: What does that place need? What can we build there? Who will live there? And what does that mean for the future? We view many things in the same way as Manhave, certainly when it comes to area development. They are the owners of the City House flat designed by Hugh Maaskant, a very ambitious project at the time, actually one of the first 'mixed-use ' buildings."
Timo: "Manhave thinks beyond their own buildings, it is much more about area development. Because they have been here for a long time, they have the connections and Steven Manhave is now also moving throughout the city with his ideas about area development. From the idea: How can we work in such a way that it is best for the city? Or: What will The Lobby mean for the Kruiskade, for the Karel Doormanstraat and for the routing to the station? And what is the appearance of green roofs and the greening of the Lijnbaan? So those kinds of questions."
A building with a history
The building of The Lobby has a history. Does that play a role?
Vincent: "We understand the reconstruction and appreciate it. You have to look at it in that kind of terms. Take the design of the Lijnbaan by architect Jaap Bakema. The shops and the four residential buildings - of which City House is one - were actually from a whole new order, a rational structure, almost an economic model. This development created a new axis from the town hall, Korte Lijnbaan to the Doelen, as it were."
"Architectural historian Paul Meurs made a wonderful analysis not so long ago, called: 'In search of the Kruiskade'. The Kruiskade used to be the place with theatres, nightlife and casinos. Due to the restructuring, it has become a bit of a 'back side'. For my part, call it a kind of war victim of the restructuring. For example, Crystal House was part of an expedition street at the back of the Korte Lijnbaan for a long time. Not a bustling environment and moreover I have always found it a very closed building. From below the building is nice and open, but the top with all that reflective glass isn't inviting. You can't see what's inside and that makes the building anonymous."
I see the construction of The Lobby as an opportunity to completely open the Kruiskade and give it maximum life.
"I see the construction of The Lobby as an opportunity to completely open the Kruiskade and give it maximum life. Incidentally, this will also happen with Lumière in a few years, but first we will give more weight to the Kruiskade, so that the street will win over the profile of the Korte Lijnbaan in terms of urbanity. And a very interesting side effect is that you have to take the environment into account, because the entire Lijnbaan Ensemble has become a national monument."
"We'll keep the frame, but break it all the way open so you can peek inside too and see what's happening there. In this way, the building enters into a dialogue with the city with a fantastic green outdoor space on top. Perhaps that is also an incentive for others to improve the poor roof landscape of the Lijnbaan. The Lobby will also answer to the City House flat and the two must in a certain sense form a whole."
What can we expect from The Lobby and its appearance?
Vincent: "Very transparent with large windows and lots of glass and because it faces north, thank God we don't need blinds. As I said, The Lobby will have an open dialogue with the city, it should be about life and you should feel like living there. We've also designed large windows at the back. The Lobby will challenge other stores to develop further."
It will be typical Rotterdam: beautiful, not too slick, but at the same time elegant.
Timo: "It will look beautiful, with a very inviting entrance at the front, and thanks to the use of materials, a building that will continue to look good over time. But not too frivolous, we remain natural, sober Rotterdammers. There is grandeur in it, but we also want to keep our feet on the ground. It will be typical Rotterdam: beautiful, not too slick, but at the same time elegant. Call it an elegant renewal of reconstruction. A new kind of modernism."
"The atmosphere will also be determined by the outdoor lighting that we have chosen. Very subtle spots will be placed in the ceiling, a kind of specialisation, without it becoming very dynamic. A kind of warm decoration of the street. As a passer-by you have to get the feeling that you are walking in a pleasant environment. By using light with a certain projection, you have to experience everything as very special. You have to feel welcome and safe in The Lobby."