Tree House Rotterdam, PLP Architecture

A superlative tree house

Bearing the name Tree House Rotterdam, Holland’s new landmark-to-be looks like a gigantic stack of wooden shelves with glass lofts added on top. It aims to take the sustainability of timber high-rises to a new level.

“The building is firmly anchored in its place, its leaves capture solar energy and it retains part of the rainwater from the Central Station concourse that flows off the roof during heavy showers.” Dutch developer Provast compares the plans for Tree House Rotterdam with a tree’s ecosystem. Even though the metaphor is a bit clumsy, at least visually, this ambitious construction project is intended to become the port city’s new green showpiece.

37 timber storeys

Here, between Rotterdam’s central railway station and its post office headquarters, a timber-hybrid tower will soon push its way skyward until it tops out before 2025. Once completed, it will be among the tallest of its kind in the world. Its 37 storeys and total height of 140 metres will outshine Eindhoven’s flagship project The Dutch Mountains and also WoHo Berlin, in any case.

Plaza, Tree House Rotterdam, PLP Architects
At a height of 140 metres, Tree House Rotterdam will rise above previous timber high-rises.

The architects at PLP Architecture describe their plans for the building: “The project, dubbed ‘Tree House’, focuses on creating a lively, inspiring, open and sustainable environment for residents and visitors in the city centre.” It is designed as a place where people can live, work, interact and celebrate.

Added value for the city

Nowadays, mixed-use projects like the “Tree House” go beyond merely building a spectacular architectural landmark with premium office/living space. They also need to make an active contribution towards achieving sustainable urban development. This is a trend that reflects the new legal requirements facing such construction projects. Besides offering added value for society, they must counteract decline in city centres and develop new public spaces for residents.

Tree House Rotterdam will offer such public space as well. The “Stadstribune” is a staircase that looks more like architectural intervention than a functional stairway. Its actual purpose is to invite office workers, taxi drivers, residents and tourists to take a much-needed break. The developers conjure up images of the future urban concord at the railway station: “Enjoying a healthy sandwich, a coffee, watching the world go by and savouring the view of our Central Station while listening to the rattle of trams and trains.”

Greenhouses, Tree House Rotterdam, PLP Architecture
Three greenhouses on the roof look like a leafy crown on top of the Tree House.

Working to create a “socially relevant programming throughout”, the architects have teamed up with De Dépendance – Rotterdam’s platform for city culture and public debate.

Outstanding ecological project

The high-rise is expected to be rated “Outstanding” by BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). Lush greenery will be the norm inside, with public wooden stairs and terraces populated by trees and bushes. Three greenhouses on the roof look like a leafy crown on top of this ecological building. As the description of Tree House Rotterdam promises: “The abundance of greenery contributes to the biodiversity and reduces heat stress.”

The abundance of greenery contributes to biodiversity and reduces heat stress.

Provast, developer of Tree House Rotterdam

In addition to timber-hybrid construction with CO₂ storage, the ecological concept also includes the use of recycled building materials. Production of solar power and the treatment of rainwater are other features. “The building is being designed to stand at the forefront of architectural sustainability,” explain the London architects, who were also responsible for designing the Oakwood Timber Tower in London and The Lodge in The Hague.

Tree House Rotterdam will shape the new cityscape as early as 2024. That said, it is unclear to date if the tower really will go ahead. Building should have begun in 2021, but the architects revealed that the beginning of construction had been postponed.

Text: Gertraud Gerst
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Renderings: PLP Architecture