Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam is World Heritage

Today, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO decided to grant the Van Nellefabriek (Van Nelle Factory) in Rotterdam the World Heritage Status. It is a global recognition of the outstanding universal value of the former coffee, tea and tobacco factory, built in a modernist style in the 1920’s.

The Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam is World Heritage.

The factory complex consists of several interlinked buildings and is one of the highlights of the industrial architecture of the 20th century. Leading architects called the factory shortly after it was built, ‘the most beautiful spectacle of modern times’ (Le Corbusier, 1932) and ‘a poem in steel and glass’ (Robertson and Yerbury, 1930).

Ideal factory

Director K. van der Leeuw and architects J.A. Brinkman and L. C. van der Vlugt managed to achieve the ‘ideal factory’: functional, beautiful and open. By using daylight and new ventilation systems the architects created more pleasant working conditions for the factory workers. The design of the building was based entirely on an analysis of the technical and social functions expected of a factory, with particular concern for the development of the lower social classes.

Tenth World Heritage site in Kingdom of the Netherlands

Now that the Van Nelle factory has been added to the List, there are a total of ten World Heritage Sites in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is the first World Heritage Site for the city of Rotterdam. Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb: “I am very proud of our new and historical icons. The Van Nelle Factory is one of those icons. Socially ahead of its time, it is a building that is unique in material and form. The Van Nelle Factory now has the status of World Heritage and that is a gift for all generations, something that all residents of the city can be very proud of.”


The successful redevelopment of the plant took place in 2000-2006. Jet Bussemaker (Minister of Education, Culture and Science) stated at the time of the submission of the nomination: “This beautiful building is an example of how monuments can be safeguarded for future generations. To the building the necessary adjustments have been made, but the spirit of the past lives on in every way.” The authenticity of the complex has been preserved by the careful renovation in all respects,” says UNESCO.  Finland, member of the World Heritage Committee, stated that “the approaches used in Van Nelle are an encouraging and useful example from which we all can learn”, and Algeria added that “this property will enrich the World Heritage List”. 

New Van Nelle Family

After stopping production in 1995, the then owner of the plant, Sara Lee / DE, together with the municipality of Rotterdam looked for a suitable conversion of the complex. With the sale of the Van Nelle Factory a new 'Van Nelle family' emerged. Director Roger Meertens: As before, the current Van Nelle factory is an inspiring work environment where dozens of companies develop the most beautiful things. With this, we give new meaning to the socio-cultural function of the in those days progressive factory and the ideas of builder Kees van der Leeuw.

UNESCO Committee in Qatar

Mayor Aboutaleb of Rotterdam and the Dutch delegation at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Doha, Qatar.

The mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb attended the meeting of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO in Doha, Qatar. During the meeting 36 new sites from all over the world will be considered for placement on the World Heritage List.