Enter the ‘Grote Kantoor’ and you travel back in time a hundred years. At the request of the then factory owner Jacques van Marken, the architect Schelling designed an office building with a large central hall. A glass dome gives the hall allure. The building’s former function is clear from the pay and collection counters, the hatch for the payment of salaries, stained glass screens with the names of ports, and busts of the factory directors.
As ‘de Gist’ expanded further and further into the western part of the site, the building fell into disuse. Since 2005, only essential maintenance has been carried out by the current owner, DSM Delft. “This is a shame, and we would much rather restore it to its former glory and use it,” says site director Fedde Sonnema. This was not a logical step for DSM Delft, because any new offices need to be close to the laboratories on the ‘West’. So, all that remained was to sell it. Several parties showed an interest, but a sale was never made. “It has also been on BOEi’s radar for fifteen years,” says deputy director Sylvia Pijnenborg. “I studied in Delft, so I know the site well. It is an astoundingly beautiful building with a wonderful history, the history of Van Marken and the rise of industry in Delft."
The restrictive conditions made redevelopment difficult: the land will continue to belong to DSM and the zoning plan and requirements applying to the site will remain in place. Sonnema: “This means that it can’t become a hotel or apartment complex. DSM Delft would also like the central hall to be retained. We think high-quality office space for about 250 people would be a great use for the building, and that’s also important for Delft.” On top of the restrictive conditions, the property is in need of maintenance and contains asbestos. Restoration is expensive. On the other hand, DSM Delft is not exactly asking top dollar for it. “We are selling it for one euro,” says Sonnema. “We’re also renting out a piece of land for parking, so that future users don’t have to search in the local area for a parking space.”
At the start of December, the decision was made: BOEi would buy the building. The organization is able to call on various funds and subsidy schemes to pay for the restoration. “That makes this project feasible, so we are happy about that,” says Sonnema. Sylvia Pijnenborg is also enthusiastic. “We want it to sparkle and shine once more. We will make this happen, just as we have done for barracks, prisons, monasteries and water towers. There is a market for offices in such appealing buildings. The reception hall will be fitted out for special gatherings.” DSM Gist itself will probably also rent office space there, in order to manage the neighboring Yeast Production Plant. “As a result, the Grote Kantoor will be restored not only to its former appearance, but to its former function.”