address: Landverhuizersplein 2-52, Wilhelmina Pier, Rotterdam
architect: Mecanoo architecten, Delft
realised: November 2005
design of the sign: Rick Vermeulen
material: steel (M), nylon carpet, adhesive foil (interior)
details M: 8m. high, 8m. wide, 1.60m. thick, 900 kg
commission: Mecanoo architecten, Delft
technique M: welded steel frame, paint
category: sans serif
narrow or wide: more wide
all strokes the same: yes
capital or romans: capital
cursive or upright: upright
looks like: De Hef, a national monument situated nearby. It is a former railway bridge by Pieter Joosting, inaugurated in 1927. Joris Ivens made a celebrated documentary about this bridge. During World War II the bridge was severely harmed; it was one of the first buildings in Rotterdam to be repaired after the war.
similars in Rotterdam: 1989, by John Körmeling on top of the first apartment building on the Kop van Zuid.
It was Rick Vermeulen, Graphic designer (Via Vermeulen Viarick, former Hard Werken) who designed the M.
He explains: “Francine Houben, Principal of Mecanoo Architects, asked me to design a capital M on top of the Montevideo residential tower that would function as Landmark. One of the first “tall” buildings on the Kop van Zuid, also designed by Mecanoo, had a large neon sculpture by John Körmeling: ‘1989′, named after its year of construction. In this way, there would be a relation between the two new buildings situated both on the Kop van Zuid. The letter M on Montevideo should have a size that would make the tower to be the highest residential building in the Netherlands. This requirement defined the height, and as a result also the width of the letter. Design time was short, the letter had to be on the drawings in the sales prospectus: a building as a landmark is a great selling asset”.
“I got all freedom to design the landmark myself. We have worked together since long and trust each other”. [Graphic designer Rick Vermeulen made several books for Mecanoo: “Mecanoo. Francine Houben. The Master Architect Series”, 2008, “Francine Houben/Mecanoo Architecten, compositie, contrast, complexiteit”, 2001, and “Mecanoo, 25 werken”, 2005.]
M is everywhere
In 1999, Mecanoo dressed up guidelines for the south quay of the Wilhelmina Pier: no monotonous repetitive facades, an inviting street level and flexible floor plans for living and for working.
Not much later, Mecanoo got the commission to design a residential tower. Francine Houben invented the name, Montevideo, referring to the former warehouses on the quay with names of ports like New Orleans, Santos, Baltimore and Havana. Montevideo, another large harbor city in South America was chosen for its romantic exotic connotation. The M on the roof stands for Montevideo of course, but also for Maritime, and river Maas. Together with the World Port Center by Sir Norman Foster, from where is taken care of the port and industrial area of Rotterdam as well as the handling of shipping, Montevideo is a gate keeper of the Wilhemina Pier.
Variety is the key word. The building is composed of different intersecting volumes each in a different colour. One of the volumes cantilevers 16 meters above the quay and hosts restaurants on the ground floor. Different construction methods (concrete and steel, allowing for 192 apartments with 53 different ground plans, different heights and facades.
Inspiration came from the brownstone warehouses in the US and the ocean steamers of the Holland-America Line that are little towns in themselves. The ships had all kinds of services on board, had a number of stacked decks and had cheap as well as very expensive huts. Imagine that emigrants from the Netherlands, from Germany, from Europe, travelled to Rotterdam, bought a one way ticket to America to build up a new life and departed from this very Pier.
two swimming pools
Besides apartments, restaurants and offices, the building program includes guest suites, two swimming pools, gym and sauna.
The communal swimming pool and sauna are situated in the lower, red part of the building, the other pool is private and located in the penthouse with the best view and the largest floorplan.
The Master Architect Series. mecanoo. Francine Houben, Ruud Brouwers, Aaron Betsky, Images Publishing, Victoria, Australia, 2008
Het geheim van Montevideo, Hanneke Hollander, Jelle Post, de Kunst, Zwolle, 2016