Klooster Oude Noorden
Rotterdam (NL)
Stichting Vrienden van het Klooster, Gemeente Rotterdam
Mixed use
600 sqm
Ruben Cieremans
Riccardo de Vecchi
Citadel Aannemingsbedrijf, Planemos
Namelok (2023). HKON no. 2, Rotterdam (NL), photograph: Riccardo de Vecchi (2023).

The Klooster Oude Noorden, located in the northern part of Rotterdam, is a community center that occupies a historic monument. Originally constructed in 1912 as a Catholic girls’ school, the St. Hildegardisschool was expanded ten years later to include a gym, living quarters for the nuns, and additional classrooms. In the following years, the school slash monastery continued to adapt to the changing needs of its occupants. In 1979, the nuns left the premises, and the municipality of Rotterdam repurposed the building as a Neighborhood House or “Huis van de Wijk.” The building underwent further alterations to meet its new function. In 2012, the most recent renovation occurred, updating the building’s aesthetics and practices to suit contemporary needs.

The building as we know it today is the result of a century of, sometimes contradicting, changes and renovations. It’s a collage of decades, each one surfacing in different parts and layers of the building. In its function as a gathering place for the local community, it offers a range of services and activities, including tax administration assistance, and dance and music classes. While it holds significant importance to some as the heart of the neighborhood, others are less familiar with its existence. To attract a more diverse public, Namelok was commissioned to redesign the space with the aim of converting the old gym into a multipurpose cafe, reimagining the foyer, and improving the entrance area’s wayfinding and coherence.

During a three-year design process, users and non-users were consulted through open brainstorming sessions. This led to the decision to design the cafe as a multifunctional area with simple and robust furniture that caters to different needs and people. The inclusion of different cultures and ages was extremely important in our design. Furthermore, an open kitchen was chosen to facilitate cooking workshops and enhance the cafe’s aesthetic appeal. The design also involved removing a closed pantry, reopening former doorways, and installing a new counter area, which not only serves the cafe but also connects it with the foyer and building entrance through new sightlines. The hallway that leads from the foyer to the center of the building transforms from a functional corridor into a bright, high-quality space that connects to both the cafe and courtyard.

The color and material scheme is light and clean, acting as a blank canvas that the occupants can fill with their activities and events. The floor consists of grey tiles with inserts of old monastery tiles. This use of heritage materials aligns with the building’s century-old history and current use. To add practicality and warmth, the interior features a furniture series of dark wooden tables, bar elements, and shelves that is informed by traditional church furniture, but thoughtfully redesigned and constructed to fit the space’s needs.

The Klooster Oude Noorden now offers a welcoming and inspiring environment for people attending community events, using the co-working space, or simply stopping by for coffee.

Namelok (2023). HKON no. 15, Rotterdam (NL), photograph: Riccardo de Vecchi (2023).
Namelok (2023). Klooster Oude Noorden Under Construction 1, Rotterdam (NL), photograph: Namelok (2023).
Anonymous (n.d.). Klooster Oude Noorden Tiles Detail, Rotterdam (NL), photograph: J. Ode (n.d.).
Namelok (2023). Klooster Oude Noorden Under Construction 3, Rotterdam (NL), photograph: Namelok (2023).
Namelok (2022). Sketch 1 [digital art].
G.J. Dukker (1992). St. Hildegardiskerk, Rijksdienst voor Cultureel Erfgoed (1992).
Namelok (2022). Table (model).
Anonymous (n.d.). Klooster Oude Noorden Nuns With Children [photograph].
Namelok (2022). Sketch 2 [digital art].
Johannes Odé (2023). Festivities 2 [photograph].
Namelok (2023). Festivities 1 [video].

The building is a collage of decades, each one surfacing in different parts and layers of the building.

Anonymous (2023). Mayor Voting [photograph].
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