It is really about to happen. Blijdorp Zoo is going to restore the national monumental Riviera Hall. The zoo’s 1940 main building was designed by Sybold van Ravesteyn in neo-baroque/functionalist style. It will now be given a new purpose, made possible partly by an €18 million contribution that the Rotterdam Municipal Executive included in the coalition agreement 2022. The festive signing in the Rivièrahal took place yesterday by alderman Said Kasmi (culture, among others) and Erik Zevenbergen, director-director of Blijdorp Zoo. Broekbakema is working on the restoration of various monuments in the Rotterdam Zoo and is proud to contribute to the restoration of the Rivièrahal.
Restoration in phases
The proposed contribution from Rotterdam City Council will enable the Zoo to start the restoration task of the Rivièrahal. Part of the project includes a forecourt with a terrace and a meeting place, which will also be accessible outside the Zoo’s opening hours. The entire building will be tackled in phases and will include the central hall, the Victoria Room, the gorilla enclosure and the Thick Skin enclosure. The Victoria greenhouse is the first phase to be taken up. The botanical infill with the giant water lily Victoria amazonica in the characteristic circular pond, remains the basis for the monumental conservatory.
Above: Newly designed Victoria conservatory.
Councillor Said Kasmi, Alderman of Culture: “The Zoo is the city’s largest national monument with 21 national monuments of which 16 have been restored to their former glory. The biggest task now consists of the Riviera Hall, which is yet to be restored. This monumental part of the Zoo, designed by architect Sybold van Ravesteyn, is the eye-catcher and also the largest national monument in the garden. We would like to keep it that way, but in a completely new look, befitting today’s city. With an urban terrace that has the potential to grow into a new hotspot for Rotterdammers and visitors”.
Design vision that looks beyond
Blijdorp Zoo presents a challenge that we at Broekbakema face more often: how do you ensure a future-proof site while preserving its monumental value? ‘Recognising the quality and strength of the monument is most important, look first at the value of what is already there,’ says Marius Voets, architect and since 2011 involved in the renovation and restoration of monuments at Blijdorp such as the Mountain Animal Rock, Dikhuidenvleugel, various wooden stables, the Giraffe House and the Tea Room. ‘Traditionally, the Riviera Hall and entire Zoo occupied a hugely valuable place, in the neighbourhood and in the city. From that point of view, operating this great monument can have a real impact. And keeps this preserved for generations to come.’
With its 1.5 million visitors a year, Blijdorp Zoo is the largest attraction in Zuid-Holland and the best-visited zoo in the Netherlands. The zoo emphatically profiles and programmes for a diverse target group, making it accessible to all Rotterdam residents. In its operations, Blijdorp has succeeded in being a healthy facility that can operate independently without government subsidies. Nevertheless, donations and sponsor contributions remain of great importance for the further development of the Zoo as stated in the Masterplan 2020-2030: ‘Blijdorp Natuurlijk’.
Erik Zevenbergen, director of Blijdorp Zoo: ‘The preparations for the Victoria greenhouse are in full swing. However, a big challenge still awaits us to complete this huge job in its entirety. For this, we are also appealing to the province, the government, funds and other partners. But the biggest step towards a new future for the Riviera Hall has been taken.”
The municipal contribution of 18 million euros will be disbursed in three tranches of 6 million euros and deposited with the National Restoration Fund, the centre of expertise on monument subsidies. A total of 42 million has been calculated for this restoration. The Zoo aims to complete the restoration before 2032.
Photo: Festive signing in the Rivièrahal place by alderman Said Kasmi (culture, among others) and Erik Zevenbergen, director-director Diergaarde Blijdorp.