For years, the Schieblock office building in the centre of Rotterdam stood empty. Now the building has been redeveloped for temporary use as an urban laboratory, with office space for architectural studios, designers, researchers and cultural institutions. The initiative for the redevelopment was taken by a young architectural studio from Rotterdam, ZUS, who felt it was rather puzzling that a building on such a prominent location in the Rotterdam city centre could stand empty, especially because, at the same time, there was a great shortage of affordable office space for creatives.
De Dépendance - unsolicited architecture
The redevelopment of the Schieblock, however, aims for more than just providing affordable office space. In Rotterdam, a slow but certain ‘scattering’ of cultural institutions seems to be taking place, with museums, theatres and cinemas moving more and more to the outskirts. ZUS felt the need to react to this development, and decided to start a new cultural facility in the Schieblock: ‘De Dépendance – centre for urban culture’. Since it’s opening in 2009, De Dépendance has hosted exhibitions, lectures and concerts organised by the NAi, AIR foundation, IABR, IFFR, De Unie and the Berlage Institute. Additionally, it served as the location for the first Rotterdam drive-in cinema, and has been used as a movie set!
Both the Schieblock and De Dépendance are ‘unsolicited projects for the city’, where the architects themselves have taken the initiative in order to address an issue that is important to them – and others.
Does this new active approach define the future role of the architect? What do you think?