Van Nelle Factory – Rotterdam, Netherlands - Atlas Obscura

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Van Nelle Factory

An icon of International Style architecture on the outskirts of Rotterdam. 


Located on the outskirts of Rotterdam, the Van Nelle factory is a very impressive feat of architecture. The Van Nelle business started in 1782, with an intimate local shop selling the much-in-demand products of tea, coffee, and tobacco. Back in those days, you couldn’t simply go to a supermarket for your produce. As with many businesses selling such products, the Van Nelle’s thrived back in those days. They established trade across the world and founded multiple plantations in India.

Piggelmee and Tureluur, were the company mascots, two dwarfs who went on coffee-related adventures. They were a common feature on both packaging and early merchandise. With profits booming, construction of this factory began in the 1920s. When built, it was one of the first buildings of its kind in the Netherlands, and even now it does not look dated at all and features in many worldwide books of outstanding architecture. In 2014, the Van Nelle Factory was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The factory buildings were designed by architect Leendert van der Vlugt together with civil engineer J.G. Wiebenga, at that time a specialist for constructions in reinforced concrete. They were built between 1925 and 1931.

The owners put much thought into their employees. The massive windows were built to allow as much daylight as possible into the building with the aim of increasing workplace satisfaction, in comparison to many other dark and dank factories of the time. The factory is also surrounded by much green space for playing sport and relaxing. Unusual for the time there was also a dining room, library and showers!

The last product rolled off the factory line in 1996. The building was restored to its most majestic state in 1998 and has remained preserved since then.

Know Before You Go

There is adequate parking on the surrounding streets. A nice walk along the river bank takes in views of the factory. You generally can’t enter the factory unless on a guided tour- see online for booking of these.

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July 14, 2021

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