MVRDV unveils its design for The Harbour Experience Centre in Rotterdam

The Harbour Experience Centre by MVRDV – a stack of five rotated exhibition spaces for the Port of Rotterdam - is conceptualised as a sustainable and energy-efficient solution.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jun 22, 2021

Looming over the vast and flat coastline of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, The Harbour Experience Centre by MVRDV is envisioned as an unequivocal new experience for visitors. Designed as a practical and dramatic take on what is traditionally considered an exhibition centre, it has a low cost, stripped look, visually inspired by the machinery of the port itself. There is also a visual reference to the structure’s predecessor FutureLand, a temporary information centre that opened in 2009. The main purpose of the structure is to act as an information centre with a larger, permanent exhibition illustrating the history of Europe’s largest port and will occupy three levels in the middle of the building. This exhibition space is slated to be designed by Amsterdam-based design agency, Kossmanndejong.

The floors are stacked and twisted around the central atrium |The Harbour Experience Centre by MVRDV | STIRworld
The floors are stacked and twisted around the central atrium Image: Courtesy of MVRDV

The building’s overall form is a result of the Dutch firm’s desire to offer unique views from each floor. Every floor is rotated around the structure's central atrium. Large panorama windows flank both sides of each floor to frame vistas. Each element of the exhibition space is designed to evoke a sense of industry and functionality. Carefully divided into areas of interest, special attention has been paid to orient each floor according to the activities housed in these spaces. On the ground floor, the café windows face westward for views of the dunes and the North Sea. Meanwhile, diners on the fourth-floor restaurant can enjoy views looking out at the port and the stunning skyscape.

The building is energy neutral and features sustainable materials |The Harbour Experience Centre by MVRDV | STIRworld
The building is energy neutral and features sustainable materials Image: Courtesy of MVRDV

The building uses sustainable and recyclable material and the entire façade of the structure can be later disassembled and returned to the manufacturer. The exhibition space has been conceptualised as an energy neutral construction. The steel used here is recovered from the demolition of the previous structure on the site, while the acoustic ceilings of the space are to be made using paper pulp. In addition to being an energy neutral construction site, the building will also function as a carbon-neutral facility. Powered by a combination of 336 solar panels and a windmill with effective insulation, the structure's environmental impact is kept at a minimal. Even the foundation of the structure is designed to leave no trace of its concrete piles, if the structure were to be removed in the future.

  • View from the dunes: the twisted structure and the flat expanse of the port are in stark contrast |The Harbour Experience Centre by MVRDV | STIRworld
    View from the dunes: the twisted structure and the flat expanse of the port are in stark contrast Image: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • View from the street: The Harbour Experience Centre by MVRDV is slated to open in 2024 |The Harbour Experience Centre by MVRDV | STIRworld
    View from the street: The Harbour Experience Centre by MVRDV is slated to open in 2024 Image: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • The restaurant on the fourth floor offers views of the North Sea and the twinkling lights of the harbour in the evening can entice anyone |The Harbour Experience Centre | MVRDV | STIRworld
    The restaurant on the fourth floor offers views of the North Sea and the twinkling lights of the harbour in the evening can entice anyone Image: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • View from the fourth floor restaurant |The Harbour Experience Centre | MVRDV | STIRworld
    View from the fourth floor restaurant Image: Courtesy of MVRDV

Each floor of the Harbour Experience Centre has a different theme and vista. The windows on the exhibition floors are orientated in order to frame a particular view with the relevant exhibit displayed. This creates a visual experience that has an element of realism to it. The cantilevered corners created by the rotated plans will be turned into open terraces for outdoor exhibitions or as viewing ports for visitors. The building's circulation allows for visitors to directly access the restaurant on the fourth floor using the external staircase that wraps around the building. Carefully placed windows between the staircase and the exhibition space offer the guests a sneak peek as they make their way up.

  • The roof is accessible to the public via stairs that wrap around the building, setting a preview of the exhibition inside panorama windows |The Harbour Experience Centre by MVRDV | STIRworld
    The roof is accessible to the public via stairs that wrap around the building, setting a preview of the exhibition inside panorama windows Image: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • The cantilevered spaces are converted to open terraces |The Harbour Experience Centre by MVRDV | STIRworld
    The cantilevered spaces are converted to open terraces Image: Courtesy of MVRDV

The colossal atrium is the central feature of the structure and a strong visual, which is hidden from view until visitors reach the heart of the building. This space also doubles as an exhibition space, and will feature a model of the Rotterdam port along with a kinetic sculpture that illustrates elements of the port in great detail.

  • The atrium – with an explanatory kinetic sculpture in its centre – has a model of the Port of Rotterdam underfoot |The Harbour Experience Centre by MVRDV | STIRworld
    The atrium – with an explanatory kinetic sculpture in its centre – has a model of the Port of Rotterdam underfoot Image: ©Kossmanndejong
  • The cantilevered spaces are converted to open terraces |The Harbour Experience Centre by MVRDV | STIRworld
    Internal view of the exhibition space Image: Courtesy of MVRDV

Stated best by MVRDV founding partner, Winy Maas, “Every part of the design is geared towards engaging people and then educating them about their surroundings. In that way, it not only teaches people about the Port of Rotterdam, but envelops them in the spirit of the port itself”. The dynamic structure provides much needed contrast, in the flat and unwavering expanse of the port. The Harbour Experience Centre aims to do justice to the history of the port by engaging with tourists in a multitude of different experiences.

Project Details

Name: The Harbour Experience centre
Location: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Surface Area: 3533 m²
Client: Port of Rotterdam
Status: In progress
Programs: Educational, Cultural, Bar-restaurant
Themes: Architecture, Public, Culture

(Text by Supreena Dash, intern at stirworld.com)

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