Dutch practice orange architects has given an old telecommunications building a new lease on life by transforming the Rotterdam property into a solar-powered apartment complex. Completed in 2019, the PTT Binnenrotte adaptive reuse project not only preserves and emphasizes the structure’s industrial character but also forges new connections with the surrounding community in an area long considered a “blind spot.” In addition to rooftop solar panels, the energy-efficient project is outfitted with solar hot water heaters, a residual heat system, LED lights and efficient mechanical ventilation with a heat-recovery system.

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brick building with mesh railings around balconies on top floor

Constructed in 1951 close to the spot where Rotterdam was founded, the former PTT building had sat vacant for over a decade before its recent transformation. The architects took advantage of the building’s existing dimensions to create 20 studio apartments with soaring floor heights of nearly 15 feet. Large windows frame city skyline views, and the facade was modified to bring more daylight indoors with a series of balconies finished with metal sheets and fine-meshed balustrades.

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angled view of gabled brick building
black mesh screen around balconies on a brick building

To reconnect the building with its surroundings, the architects inserted a restaurant on the ground floor and created a new outdoor terrace that faces the adjacent market square. All openings along the first floor have been extended to the ground to make the restaurant more inviting and accessible from the street level.

view of Rotterdam from an apartment balcony
brick building lit with flood lights at dusk

Because preserving the industrial aesthetic of the building was a key design goal, the architects replaced a portion of the roof tiles with “practically invisible” dark-colored solar slates. The solar panels generate enough energy to supply the needs of almost all of the apartments. Solar boilers hidden away on the flat roof at the rear of the building are used to heat the water. The floors of the apartment and restaurant are also heated with residual heat captured from the data equipment of the KPN servers in the basement.

+ orange architects

Images via Ossip van Duivenbode, Frank Hanswijk and orange architects

angled view of old brick building lit by flood lights at dusk