Energy Neutral & Practical

MVRDV has revealed the design of the Harbour Experience Centre, an exhibition space and visitor centre which offers visitors a new perspective on the Port of Rotterdam

Fact File
Project Name: Harbour Experience Centre
Location: Rotterdam
Client: Port of Rotterdam
Size & Program: 3500m2 Museum
Year: 2021
Images: © MVRDV, © Kossmanndejong

Harbour Experience Centre

Comprising a stack of five rotated exhibition spaces, the building stands out from its flat, open surroundings, offering spectacular views in all directions of the coastline, the port, and the ocean. The Harbour Experience Centre is scheduled to open in 2024.

The building takes a practical approach to its task with its simple functionality and industrial materials. Its shape is a direct response to the activities taking place inside and out: Each floor is square in plan and has a large panorama window that give a view of the buzzing harbour. The orientation of each floor, and the direction its main window faces, corresponds to its function: on the ground floor café, the window faces westward for views of the dunes and the North Sea, while diners in the fourth-floor restaurant can enjoy views of both the North Sea and the twinkling lights of the harbour in the evening.

Harbour Experience Centre

The permanent exhibition, designed by Kossmanndejong, is spread over the three levels in between. Each level addresses a different theme, and the panorama windows are focused on elements within the port that enhance the content of the exhibition.

At the centre of the building is a large atrium that functions as an exhibition space in its own right. An explanatory kinetic sculpture will hang in its centre, with a model of the Port of Rotterdam underfoot. This impressive space is emphasised by the entrance from the ground floor, with a rotating door concealing the exhibition behind until visitors enter the voluminous heart of the building. Visitors can also ascend the building via staircases that provide a route up the various terraces to the rooftop. Along the way, showcase windows entice visitors to the exhibition inside.

Harbour Experience Centre

The building’s materials are simple, industrial, and sustainable. The construction will be energy neutral, using steel from demolished structures, the façade panels will use partly recycled materials and have a high standard of insulation, and the acoustic ceilings will be made from recycled paper pulp. In turn, the building itself is designed with circular principles in mind: the structure will be demountable so that its parts can easily be reused, and the façade panels will be returned at the end of the building’s lifespan under an agreement made with the manufacturer. Even the building’s foundation, which avoids the use of concrete piles, is designed to leave no trace. With its compact volume, efficient insulation and mechanical components, the building’s energy can be locally generated by 266 solar panels and its own windmill.
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