Rotterdam Ahoy was built in 1971 as an indoor cycling and skating arena. About 20% of the time the building was used for concerts, fairs or promotional events. That 80-20% ratio reversed over the years, requiring an expansion and renovation of the building for the twenty-first century. ZJA Zwarts & Jansma Architects was responsible for the design for modernization of Rotterdam Ahoy, intended to turn it into a flexible venue that could accommodate more than 15,000 people, instead of the previous 10,000.

The original Rotterdam Ahoy did not have a very welcoming atmosphere. It was a no-nonsense sports building. The most pressing need was to improve its quality as a place to spend time before, during and after concerts, events or matches. Together with interior design architects Merkx+Girod, ZJA expanded an area around a new entrance, which gave new functions to existing spaces and created more storage room for technical purposes. On the ground level as well as on the first floor, new bars, shops, restrooms and cloakrooms provided meeting places. The new gallery connecting the existing stands introduced a more attractive and intimate atmosphere into the building. Rotterdam Ahoy is no longer a purely functional space but a host that offers a pleasant environment for a day or a night out.

To meet the demands of international pop acts, the technical characteristics of the building were upgraded. The roof was renewed to allow greater clearance and to increase the load capacity of the roof trusses. The challenge was to increase visitor capacity but minimize the expansion. ZJA opted for a compact design that leaves the building volume intact as much as possible, by combining a concrete structure with the existing stands. While only about 3,500 m2 were added, its capacity rose by 30%.

Rotterdam Ahoy can now house 15,000 people and offer them all an exciting experience and hospitality. Whenever a capacity of 3,000 is required, the arena can be quickly reconfigured as a more intimate stadium. The podium can be situated at the back or in a central position. The new and higher roof has made the floor accessible to trucks and capable of dealing with larger weights.

The dark colour of the ceiling and the visible parts of the installation system provides a neutral backdrop, on top of which the lighting can create different atmospheres. A metal gauze is attached to the outer parts of the stand that can produce a ‘starry sky’ effect when lights shine through it. In combination with the pattern on the floor it offers a subtle signposting system. To stand out, bars and outlets have an intense colour.

The outside of Rotterdam Ahoy was changed as well. The entrance now brings the inside outside, catching the attention of passers-by and inviting them in. The facade features a big LED screen that shows part of the programme inside and inspires people to come in, take a look, and perhaps stay and experience what Rotterdam Ahoy has to offer.

Client: OBR Rotterdam
Project: 442
Nominated for the Stadium Business Awards 2011

Photographs: Luuk Kramer, Ahoy Rotterdam, B2B.