Living larger in Carnisse

  • Collective homes

The Carnisse neighbourhood in Rotterdam is comprised mainly of resale apartments. The flats were built shortly after World War II as part of a particular plan, which arose from a combination of private initiatives. The apartments are, however, according to current standards, much too small. The municipal government and the Woonbron corporation are looking to merge residences to create larger living spaces. The strategy is to renovate the flats, as opposed to demolishing them, to provide space for people who want to continue living in the neighbourhood but require more space.

Design Brief

How can the apartments in the Eilandenbuurt be combined to allow people to keep living in their neighbourhood, even as their family or income grows?

And how can this Woonbron project serve as a catalyst for more merge-to-expand projects by private owners in the neighbourhood?

Project Details

Eilandenbuurt, Carnisse, Rotterdam

Woonbron corporation

Januari 2019 – Present

Strategy, Design


Space for change in private housing

The Eilandenbuurt neighbourhood is largely composed of privately owned properties. From the perspective of the municipality, the Nationaal Porgramma Rotterdam Zuid (National program in South Rotterdam) and housing corporations, this offers little space for improvements. For a long time, the image of this neighbourhood was one where people moved in and out quickly and maintenance was passed on to the future residents. The apartments are simply too small for both a decent sized living room and master bedroom. As a result, the basements are sometimes included in the living space or a two-persons’ bed is crammed into a child’s bedroom which is much too small for it.

Woonbron corporation is responsible for the long-term perspective in the neighbourhood through socially obligated possession. This requires a special approach and innovative cooperation. Even mayor Aboutaleb has personally committed himself to working through the persistent problems in this neighbourhood and to increase, functionally and judicially, the space to organise within the community. Since 2016, Open Kaart has contributed ideas on how the housing corporation can utilize its expertise to move the neighbourhood forward.

Designed sequentially, executed individually

The apartments in the Eilandenbuurt were designed as a series/set but will be renovated individually. The corporation buys properties that are vacated and asks neighbours if they are interested in merging their apartment with the available space. When two properties next to or above one another are available, the corporation itself combines them. This makes for a gradual process, with space to learn and adapt, in which no one is forced from their home.

Encouraging the merging

Woonbron has taken the initiative to merge and expand apartments, with the intention that individuals ultimately take over the process. The municipality provides subsidies for individuals to do so.

The combined apartments that we designed for Woonbron can also serve as examples and inspiration for private individuals. The drawings and financial calculations are available to residents via a ‘combining-coach’ from the municipality.


These flats have long been viewed as cheap apartments which fill a specific niche at the bottom end of the housing market. The changing housing market means that people continue living in these apartments longer and that investing in maintenance, sustainability and overall comfort has become worthwhile. The first lesson learned from this process is that, by combining apartments, a quality living space can be achieved, without artifice or tricks, which is truly energy efficient.

Added Value

The impact of this design study is magnified by providing individuals with the same design elements that were created for the housing corporation. In this way, we help the municipality, corporation, and residents to work together to make the neighbourhood sustainable for the future.

The merging to expand apartments is one piece of our larger project to create new perspectives and prospects for the existing resale properties in Carnisse

Project Location

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Living Larger in Carnisse

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