After some clever modifications, the Supercube complex in the Netherlands finally serves a purpose.
Having stood vacant for about 30 years, the Supercube in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom, has finally found a purpose. It is one of the blocks in the iconic housing complex of cube-shaped houses balanced on large hexagonal columns.
Originally constructed in 1982, this architectural landmark of over 1 200m² has now been renovated into a 21-room residence and rehabilitation centre for convicts in the final stage of their detention, operated by the Exodus Foundation.
According to the architects, Sander van Schaik and Maarten Polkamp from Personal Architecture, the main deterrent of the original structure was that “the building was dark, it warmed up quickly and there was no relation whatsoever between the floors”. The distinct contrasting layers of the Supercube are what made it both interesting and problematic. While the ground and first floors were designed with vertical glass faces, and the top floor’s rotated glazed cube spanned a height of 11m from floor to apex, allowing plenty of light to enter the building, the middle floors did not feature a single vertical wall and had limited floor height.
Respecting the features that give the Supercube its unique identity, the architects from Personal Architecture aimed to restructure the floor plan and vertical proportions within the building while preserving the exterior as much as possible.
In a single intervention, a shaft of 3m² was inserted into the heart of the building, cutting across all the floors. Apart from greatly increasing the amount of natural light into the building, it also adds coherence between the different floors. In addition, it contributes to the thermal regulation of the building by allowing cool air from the bottom floor to rise up and cool the warmer tip of the cube through a chimney effect.
Aiming to make the most of the newly added space, several utilities such as the reception, pantry, laundry, bathrooms, storage areas and kitchen are located inside the shaft wall, while a staircase connects the different levels.
The bottom floor now hosts the reception, shops and archives, with the 21 independent living units on the two middle levels and a communal, open-plan space on the top floor. The communal space was purposely designed with as little partition as possible to encourage interaction and sharing, therefore the various collective functions, which include a kitchen, dining room, living zone and computer area, are not closed off in separate rooms, but are placed as islands in the space.
On the top floor, the central shaft element extends four metres above the floor, creating a hovering platform, on which a lounge area was created with a view of the Rotterdam skyline.
Personal Architecture describes this project as having been a daring enterprise, but expects that the upgrades will enable transparency and social control, as well as facilitate constructive encounters between the residents, factors that will play a vital role in the success of the reintegration of the former offenders.
Full thanks and acknowledgment are given to Personal Architecture for the information given to write this article.
Main renovation element: 3m² shaft
– Cuts across all floors.
– Increases natural light.
– Thermal control through the chimney effect.
– Includes staircase that links floors.
– Utilities located in shaft wall.
– Netted for safety.