Postgebouw/Post CS

P. Elling
Koninklijke PTT
Centraal Station
Kantoren, Voorziening

Former post office

In 2010 the former station post office building on Oosterdokseiland has been demolished. This tall, grey building on the southeast side of the island had become known as ‘Post CS’, when it temporarily housed the Stedelijk Museum and dozens of small businesses in the creative sector. In the plans for the redevelopment of Oosterdokseiland it was to have been preserved, with a new façade designed by Erick van Egeraat, who also drew up the master plan for Oosterdokseiland. However, the city council decided to demolish the building.

Post CS fitted in quite logically in the row of new buildings on the island: in the westernmost part of the island the Double Tree Hotel, in the middle the public library and music conservatory, and at the eastern tip ‘Post CS’. They stand in a fan-shaped configuration, as devised by Van Egeraat.

The Post CS building originally formed part of a complex of three buildings, designed by the architect Piet Elling (1897-1962), and together they functioned as the station post office. The two western, lower wings were demolished a number of years before. Some people will perhaps recall that you could post letters here until nine o’clock in the evening if you had missed the last collection.

The three buildings were built between 1960 and 1968 on the site of a large disused shunting yard to the east of Centraal Station. The city’s public works department and the city architect Ben Merkelbach were also involved in the construction of the complex. Cornelis van Eesteren, director of public works, saw a meaningful relationship between the tower of the post office building and the Havengebouw (1960), built by W.M. Dudok, to the west of the station. On completion, the building was considered to be the most modern post office in the world. In recent years, the building had come to be regarded as one of the finest examples of postwar reconstruction architecture. Elling, well known as a functionalist architect, designed a veritable post machine in which each of the three components reflected its particular function. The westernmost component was characterized by arched platform roofs, underneath which the carts with postbags were loaded and unloaded. To the east of this was the four-storey ‘letter post building’ in which post was mechanically sorted.

The tall building at the tip of the island was the most striking of the three and functioned compositionally as a sort of beacon for the complex. It is composed of a high-rise section with offices and a wider low-rise section for the parcel service. The high-rise section rests on the lower volume and for this reason it has a complex load-bearing structure.

The positioning of the blocks in relation to each other was carefully chosen. The lower blocks were positioned as an overture to the tall block. The leaps in scale accentuated the importance of the tall Post CS. The wedge-shaped space between the letter post building and the parcel post building was where lorries were loaded and unloaded. In addition, because of the slight kink in the building line, the tall block on the most prominent site on Oosterdok was even more eye-catching for passers-by on Prins Hendrikkade.

The modern character of the complex was largely determined by the materials used: all three buildings were executed in sandstone, glass and concrete. Modern materials, which were employed with a feeling for detail. The facades of the two westerly buildings were characterized by a tall plinth (a reference to the shop buildings in the city centre), above which were glazed areas that were interrupted by a concrete grid. This grid gave the facades a division reminiscent of the dimensions in the city centre and also served as solar protection. The high-rise building had a different architectural character. Here, the concrete grid was repeated, but was heavier and deeper. With its tall pillars and deep-set windows, it was a clear reference to one of the most famous designs by the modernist Le Corbusier, the Unité d’Habitation in Marseille. (ARCAM/BU)