The Van Nelle factory
in Rotterdam (1931) is one of the masterpieces of 20th Century architecture. Although it is well known in The Netherlands, and indeed, serves as a continuing inspiration to contemporary Dutch architects, it remains a less familiar icon elsewhere. This is, perhaps, due to the fact that more than one architect had a hand in its design--none of the collaborators became international name brands--and because it's prosaic function as a packaging plant for coffee, tea, and tobacco, did not attract much attention. It is commonly considered an example of the Nieuwe Bouwen (New Building), a Dutch modernist movement.

At the time I photographed the complex (1996) it was still being used for coffe and tea packaging, although the conveyor belts no longer operated inside the bridges spanning the main street of the factory. At present, it is being converted to office purposes with an emphasis on new media and IT. A tip for visitors to The Netherlands: a commanding view of the Van Nelle factory can be had from the train as one is leaving or entering the city west of the Central Station on the main line between Rotterdam and Amsterdam.


Photos Brian Rose

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