Residential urban forest in the heart of Rotterdam. Kubuswoningen by Piet Blom

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Piet Blom.
Rotterdam Municipality.
Total housing area.- 3,800 sqm. House area.- 100 sqm.
Project.- 1978. Construction.- 1982-1984. Renovations.- 1998, 2001, 2015.
Overblaak 70, 3011 MH Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Ramiro Isaurralde. NAI Collection Database - Het Nieuwe Instituut.


Piet Blom (1934) was born in Amsterdam and grew up in the “Jordaan”, a working class quarter where life takes place on the street. In this district Blom’s vision on living and working was formed. After an education as a carpenter and architectural designer he enrolls in an architectural study at the Academy of Architecture, where one of his tutors is Aldo van Eyck.

While still studying Blom is doing an internship at the Herman Knijtijzer Bureau of Architecture, where he is involved in several projects. But is it difficult for Blom to express himself in the apartment-architecture this bureau is engaged in. In 1962, the last year of his study at the academy, Blom designs an urban plan for an urbanization between Amsterdan and Haarlem called: ‘Noah’s Ark’. The same year he wins the Prix de Rome with his design for the Pestalozzi-children’s village. He uses the grant that he wins to eleborate a vision against the monotonous housing projects consisting of flats and terraced houses. This study is published in 1965 by the association of roof tiles-manufacturers Nedaco with the title ”Living as a general urban roof’. In this vision he designs a city made of two levels: a public space on the ground with of houses above that like the roof of the city. In fact this is the birth of his first idea of what he later elaborates as cubicles.

Especially in the 70’s a lot of structuralist blocks have been built. Structuralism has had a lot of influence on social housing, in the Netherlands, but e.g. in Germany as well. Blom’s architectural motto was: “Living under an urban roof”. With the Amsterdam Jordaan area as an example he wanted to design village-like buildings in which all aspects of life could take place, in which every space and every individual is a part of the whole and is able to develop according to the possibilities.

In the 80’s especially large-scale structuralist buildings have been built. Criticism was raising: too much uniformity, lack of surveyability, suffocation, tedious. More surveyability, transparency, variation and aesthetics was demanded (e.g. by Rem Koolhaas).

In the 90’s the designs of Hertzberger and even Van Eyck express that they went along with the spirit of the time. Blom’s designs for Heemskerk and Amersfoort were executed, but he sticks to his original principles and ideas. Between the projects in Rotterdam (1984) and Heemskerk (1994) is a period of 10 years. For Blom this period was mentally heavy, because none of his designs at that time has been executed: Rotterdam (Pompenburg), Amsterdam, Kampen, Zwolle, Monnickendam, Valkenburg. A dwelling for a befriended contractor (Russian Palace) in Amersfoort revives him.

Piet Blom passed away at June 8th 1999 at the age of 65 years during a holiday in Denmark and has been buried in Monnickendam, his hometown for many years. The NAI (Netherlands Architectural Institute = The New Institute nowadays) in Rotterdam administer his professional estate (drawings, documentation, overview-exhibition).



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