Foyer Goethe Institut

The Goethe Institute in Rotterdam is located on the Mauritssingel 9, behind a historic façade dating back to 1872. When the institute moved to this location in 1998, the building behind the historic façade was entirely replaced to meet the needs of its new users. In accordance with the way the Institute operated at the time, it presented itself as a house where visitors were received at the entrance and were directed to the various areas of the building. Through an entrance door located deep in the façade, one could reach the hall, and from there the library, the rear areas with a room for events, and the staircase on the upper floors with classrooms for language courses, the offices, and a former caretaker’s flat. The latter is now used for architects and artists in residence. In front of the hall and with a view to the street was the mailroom; now used as a server room.


Because the organisation had changed over time, the intention was to present itself as an open public facility, but the floor plan limited this. The public areas of the building were dispersed, and the way to these different rooms was difficult to find without guidance. The common rooms were uninviting, and the possibilities for the institute to display its activities to the outside world were minimal.

It was assumed that structural changes would not be possible within a reasonable period of time, due to required feedback and approval procedures. Therefore, the approach was to create an installation that would overlay the existing building and make it easier for the public to use without fundamentally affecting it.

This included the conversion of the mailroom into a display case, a new reception desk that would also enable a more open connection to the library, an information wall where the distributed areas throughout the building could present themselves in a uniform manner, a new orientation system, an intervention in the long corridor that led visitors to the rear areas in a pleasant way, and a new interior for the space in front of the event room that developed into the most important public space in the building; the foyer. The language students spend their breaks here; it has been used as a reading area by the library; and as a room for speeches and drinks at openings or concerts.

Bildschirmfoto 2020 10 28 Um 11.08.10

Concept for the entire public area

From this proposal, two interventions have been provisionally realised from a minimal available budget: the display case and the interior of the foyer.

The windows of the façade in the former mailroom were extended with a box that has removable back panels; deep enough to present work produced by the architects and artists in residence for the public on the street.

For the foyer, a wall of vertical wooden slats was designed, into which the magazine racks with storage compartments, a hanging facility for newspapers, and the cloakroom were integrated. There is a simple table placed in front of it. For the lighting, the original plan was to modify the roof lights—the only source of light in the room—and complement them with artificial lighting, but this was unrealised. Three large lamps that add a domestic aspect to the room were installed instead.