At the turn of the 20th century, a new style of modern architecture was formed through the development of new building types, materials, and construction techniques from the 2nd Industrial Revolution. With modern inventions and advancements in technology came a shift in the working environment of the industrial fields, for example unsatisfactory working conditions due to long hours in a dark and unclean atmosphere. Designers J.A. Brinkman and L.C. Van der Vlugt embarked on the new ideology of developing a better working experience through the architectural design of a utilitarian space. The Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam became an icon of modern architecture by fashioning a design relationship between functionalism and progressivism to generate a solution to the poor working environments by implementing light, air, and space with the use of new structural methods and materials all while designing for the purpose of the building.
The Van Nelle Factory is a coffee, tea, and tobacco company located in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Commissioned by Chairman Kees van der Leeuw, construction of the building began in 1925 and was forced to completion in 1931. J.A. Brinkman, a civil engineer whose father was the original planned architect for this project, formed a union with well-known architect L.C. van der Vlugt to continue the project after his father’s sudden death.
The concept behind the new buildings for the factory was to explore options of design that focused not only on the program of the factory, but to also consider the emotional and physical needs of the labor force. While J.A. Brinkman is considered one of the designers for the Van Nelle Factory, architect L. C. van der Vlugt and Chairman Kees van der Leeuw were a stronger influence over the aesthetics and modern design of the building. Van der Vlugt was regarded as an “ambitious . . . modern, dynamic figure [whose] ideas . . . were decisive and highly innovative.” Although Kees van der Leeuw was not a designer, he educated himself on the aspects of modern design and worked to better the lives of his workers through architecture. He went on several trips to the United States and Germany and conducted extensive research on industrial design elements that would later be realized as the crucial factors as to why the Van Nelle Factory is a monument of modern architecture.
The Van Nelle Factory is a perfect combination of functionalism and progressivism with a hint of idealistic concepts. Every aspect of the Van Nelle factory was not only designed for its purpose as an industrial building, but also “to embody . . . the ideal . . . that human welfare could be improved and the end result would be a better and more harmonious society.” This unique factory design would almost instantly become the starting point for outstanding modern architecture in the Netherlands and throughout Europe.
Van der Leeuw admired functionalism in the idea that “the exterior of a factory should be the result of the...