Before delving into the recent news of KAAN Architecten designing the renovation of Galeries Modernes, we must first know what Galeries Modernes is. Galeries Modernes in Rotterdam stands to represent as a prime example of the Reconstruction era of architecture in Rotterdam. People that come across this building occasionally often wonder why the building has not yet been demolished. 

Despite its representation of the Reconstruction era, people still found it ugly and was considered as a  rather large building for Hoogstraat from 1957. In addition to the thoughts of the people, one of the occupants commented that “a big advantage of being inside this building is that we don’t have to look at it”.

Galeries Modernes In Rotterdam

Galeries Modernes was officially opened on 8 November 1954 and 1957. Designed by renowned architects Van den Broek en Bakema and commissioned by Galeries Modernes department store, the kind of square building of 30 by 35 metres consists of four levels. A total of 2350 square metres were used up for retail space and the top floor is used for an office and storage space. 

The walls of the building were blank following closely to how the department store was like during that time. Adopted from Post-war reconstruction Community Rotterdam, it is said that “a hallmark of the architecture of Van den Broek en Bakema is the strip of fenestration along the top, which nevertheless did draw daylight into the interior. 

Galeries Modernes is considered to be a distinctive building that fronts an array of display windows covered by an extended canopy. It acts as the commercially clear entrance of Galeries Modernes as the display windows extend back into the actual building. This made the display windows belong to both the street and Galeries Modernes. People of that time that follow the display windows will first be from the streets and eventually find themselves inside the Galeries Modernes. 

Van den Broek en Bakema’s design of the Galeries Modernes was considered innovative during that time. His use of concrete construction and the box-like floors that look like it floats on top of each other were all considered groundbreaking at that time. The ribbon windows and awnings of the building also pushed to give the structure an overall horizontal character. 

Despite many people of the public consider this building as ugly and unattractive, it still served to create an important foundation of the Reconstruction era.  

Design for the Renovation Of Galeries Modernes In Rotterdam proposed by KAAN Architecten - Sheet1
Galeries Modernes in Rotterdam ©KAAN Architecten

KAAN Architecten 

KAAN Architecten is a three-city-based architectural firm in Rotterdam, São Paulo, and Paris. They focus on operating in a global context and uniting practical practices and academic expertise within the fields of architecture, urbanism, and research on the built environment. 

Kees Kaan, Vincent Panhuysen and Dikkie Scipio lead KAAN Architecten which consists of an international team of architects, landscape architects, urban planners, engineers, and graphic designers. 

Design for the Renovation Of Galeries Modernes In Rotterdam proposed by KAAN Architecten - Sheet2
Kees Kaan ©KAAN Architecten

Renovation of Galeries Modernes In Rotterdam

As mentioned by KAAN Architecten, “the renovation of Galeries Modernes proposed by KAAN Architecten refers to and respects the basic architectonic principles of the original Broek en Bakema design. Strong volumes with deep setbacks in a primarily horizontal composition and sharp canopies are original qualities which are reinterpreted and translated into a contemporary building”. 

KAAN Architecten made a conscious choice in preserving the concrete structure of the original building and adding an extra floor on top of the four-storey building which would now be a five-storey building. 

Revamping most of the overall look and vibe of the building, the building now includes 7720 square meters and its main function to serve as a hotel. The ground floor will have a glass plinth that houses retail stores whilst the upper floors will act as the hotel consisting of 180 rooms. 

KAAN Architecten also designed a central patio to allow some greenery and natural daylight into space. Aside from adding a fifth floor, there will be a green rooftop terrace and pavilion allowing amazing 360 views of Rotterdam. The overall extension of the building increases the gross floor area of Galeries Modernes from 5,500 square metres to 7,500 square metres.

Design for the Renovation Of Galeries Modernes In Rotterdam proposed by KAAN Architecten - Sheet3
Galeries Modernes in Rotterdam ©KAAN Architecten

Apart from this, KAAN Architecten also focused on the materiality of the project that pushes to create a natural yet bold and elegant feel to the building. Understanding and acknowledging the history of Galeries Modernes in Rotterdam, KAAN Architecten pushed to preserve most of the original building, adding a new glass façade and natural stone that follows the horizontal alignments of the Van den Broek en Bakema design. Also, among other things, KAAN Architecten designed the ‘low-rise’ Zalmhaven towers in Rotterdam.

As mentioned by KAAN Architecten, “the façade design is equivalent on all sides of the building with a transparent plinth of big glass panels resembling the rhythm of the original façade.”

Design for the Renovation Of Galeries Modernes In Rotterdam proposed by KAAN Architecten - Sheet4Galeries Modernes in Rotterdam ©KAAN Architecten




Currently an architecture student in National University of Singapore (NUS), she wishes to eventually live in a van, swims with whales and delve into different works of arts. An avid learner who strives to be of an all-rounded individual, she too is a lover of words, psychology, and human experiences.