Courage has been rewarded

Christiaan Cooiman on the avalanche of prizes won by Fenix I

February 12, 2021

In 2020 residential building Fenix I was awarded as many as seventeen prizes: from the Rotterdam Architectuur Prijs to the ULI Europe Award for Excellence and BNA Beste Gebouw van het Jaar (best building of the year), winner Leefbaarheid & Sociale Cohesie (quality of life and social cohesion). The redevelopment of the warehouse, done in collaboration with Mei Architects & Planners, turned out to be the driving force behind the positive development of the whole of Katendrecht. Developer Christiaan Cooiman: “The avalanche of prizes won by Fenix I, is a reward for the courage that Heijmans has shown on Katendrecht.”

Which prize means the most to you?

“The Rotterdam Architectuur Prijs, because it is a token of appreciation from your own city. On top of that, Fenix I won both the professional jury and public jury award. In the seventeen years that I have been a developer, I have always wanted to win a Rotterdam architectural prize. Rotterdam is also the only city that conducts an active architectural policy, which is so important. I still get goosebumps thinking of the award ceremony. Up to the last second, I doubted whether Fenix I would win, as so many good projects had been delivered in Rotterdam.

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Though, the best thing would be if Fenix I would be awarded the Gouden Piramide 2020, which will probably be handed out in June 2021. This is a state prize for inspiring commissioning work in architecture and area development, and therefore also honours the collaboration between the developer, client and architect. That nomination is already a prize in itself.

While the ULI is an international recognition of our work, leaving many nominees behind us. Which is also good for Rotterdam, the city that used to head the wrong lists. And now, my own city tops all the lists in the field of project development and architecture.”

Why is Fenix I receiving so much recognition from both professionals and the public?

“It is tough to explain this and remain modest at the same time, but I believe Heijmans has been rewarded for its courage. Something really had to be done in Katendrecht. When we finished the plan, the crisis began. Everyone left, but we stayed on. We took responsibility and showed we were able to handle it. The prizes are not just for the result, but also for the journey leading up to it. The manner in which we fully focused on temporary use of the warehouses, as part of the organic area development. And how we prioritised culture, something that does not happen often.

And the result has such an impact on the city, not just on Katendrecht. Rotterdam’s centre now lies on two river banks. The scale and complexity are also impressive: you put a hundred-year-old building in the spotlight again and ensure it can last for another hundred years. Quality is always rewarded. We have more wind at our backs again, but also in case of economic headwind, quality will always come first at Heijmans. We can do this, leave a place in a better state than in which we found it. Many say they can, few actually succeed.”

What is Fenix I teaching us?

“That you should never give up. It is because of Fenix I that I have become fat, bald and grey. I have always believed in it, even though that made it very personal at times. I am quite outspoken about the way I work. It is because of that certainty that I am able to get people on board, but, at times, it can also cause doubt. It helped that there were people within Heijmans who continued to support me.

I believe you need people who care about the places they are working on. Who believe that working on a city in a sustainable manner and long-term commitment pay off. It is people like that who enable you to do these projects and win prizes with them.

I will take this determination with me to our next projects on Katendrecht. Fenix I is just one of the beads that we are sliding onto the Katendrecht necklace. Cobana is stunning and the Havenkwartier will become easily as beautiful. The Kaap is far from finished.”

All 17 prizes in a row

    • Gouden Piramide, nomination* (award ceremony 6 March 2021)
    • European Property Awards, winner Best Mixed Use Architecture Netherlands
    • Architecture MasterPrize, winner category Heritage Architecture
    • NRP Gulden Feniks, nomination
    • BNA Beste Gebouw van het Jaar (best building of the year), winner Leefbaarheid & Sociale Cohesie (quality of life & social cohesion)
    • FX Design Awards, nomination
    • Architectenweb Awards Woongebouw van het Jaar (residential building of the year), first prize
    • German Design Awards, special Mention
    • The Plan Awards, nomination
    • Blueprint Awards, nomination
    • Iconic Awards for Innovative Architecture, Best of Best
    • Nationale Staalprijs (national steel prize), first prize category Residential Building
    • ULI Europe Awards for Excellence, first prize
    • Rotterdam Architectuur Prijs, official jury prize
    • Rotterdam Architectuur Prijs, public jury prize
    • Reynaers Projectprijs, nomination
    • MIPIM/AR Future Project Award, first prize category ‘Old&New’