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Van Nelleweg 1

Rotterdam

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Van Nelle factory

The Van Nelle factory was designed according to the principles of the Nieuwe Bouwen movement. The colours were light and the reflection of the air played an important part in the appearance of the glass facades. Light, air and space reign supreme in the design.

From the outset, the international architectural world regarded the factory in Rotterdam as an icon of modern Dutch architecture.The distinctly modern appearance of the factory was markedly different from other manifestations of Dutch architecture.

The design of the Van Nelle factory can be considered an amalgam of technical innovations. A construction of reinforced concrete with mushroom floors permitted a free division of the floor area for placing machines and assembly lines. The wide rows of steel-framed windows let plenty of light and fresh air onto the shop floor, which promoted not only a high production rate but also a healthy work climate for the factory workers.

The photo shows the elevated transparent bridges with conveyor belts that connect various parts of the building. Critics interpreted the architecture of this factory as a manifestation of enlightened enterprise. The factory’s enormous success in exhibitions and architectural publications was promoted by the client, who had the entire building process filmed by Joris Ivens and documented by professional photographers. This photo was possibly taken by E. van Oyen. The copy has no name but fits in a series of photos that can be ascribed to Van Oyen.

The Nieuwe Bouwen style (1920-1940) forms a central element in the NAI collection. The archives that document this movement often contain many photos. Photography played a key role in the propagation of new architectural ideologies, as evidenced in publications from this period. Photography, like other art forms, looked for innovation. The result was a New Photography that gradually superseded traditional photography with its tendency towards painting. New Photography distinguished itself through its use of compositional diagonals, cropping and repetition of identical shapes. Because contemporary architecture demanded a clear and 'objective' representation, photographers used qualities that were exclusive to photographic techniques - and could not, therefore, be found in painting.

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