The Black Pearl: Rotterdam Town House


By Anna Jaffray

The imposing black façade of the Rotterdam town house called Black Pearl is tall and narrow, reminiscent of old town row-housing in Europe. With its stark front, astro-turf sides, three stories, and outward jutting, steel window boxes, the building seems to loom with intent over its more traditional neighbors.

The house was designed by Rolf Bruggink, 38, and his girlfriend Yffi van der Berg, 39.  The two live there, also using it as a studio space on the first floor for Bruggink’s Studio Rolf.

The house, originally from the 1900s in the Charlois district, is 1,823 square feet and was purchased by Bruggink in 2008.  But Bruggink and van den Berg designed the house with light and history in mind.  

They aimed to keep many of the primary elements intact to protect the building’s history, such as the windows and brick shell, while adding other elements to disguise the less aesthetic elements and to increase its structural quality.  Furthermore, they have combined clean lines and unique, modern shapes into the rough brick shell of the old building to create an open space within the narrow building.

Through much of his work, Bruggink seems to be preoccupied with the transformation of antique pieces and buildings into modern works, all the while maintaining the essential elements of the old.  His studio consists of ornate shelves and desks which are oft cut in half to reveal brightly colored, modern designs.  

Bruggink, in an interview with the New York Times, described his process of design as symbiotic and transformative, where, “…technical processes in general come about in a rational manner… result[ing]in an irrational poetic power.”  

One of the most prominent features of the building is a transformed greenhouse atop the Black Pearl.  While the plants remain outside the greenhouse, its interior is flooded with light, old world paintings, and a bath tub.  The greenhouse allows for a romantic view of Rotterdam’s surrounding rooftops and the Netherlands sky above.

For more information about Bruggink’s work, visit his website here


Black façade and astroturf walls

About The Author

I work for dot429 as an editorial intern and also for a dog daycare in Emeryville, CA. My dog's name is Kona, I play music, love to garden and write most of the time.

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