The new rail link of 1856 between Munich and Amsterdam brought a new kind of beer to the Dutch market: Bavarian. It tasted different and looked different to Dutch beer because it was light and clear. It was more expensive too: this was a bottom-fermenting beer, more complicated to produce than the traditionally brewed top-fermenting beer. It was perhaps the higher price - in addition to its clarity and taste - that led to this new beer becoming the drink of fashion at a time when the Netherlands was becoming more prosperous.
Gerard Heineken was one of the first Dutch entrepreneurs to fill this gap in the market and change over to large-scale production of this popular Bavarian beer. After making a start in Amsterdam, in 1873 he selected Rotterdam as a location for a new brewery producing this bottom-fermenting beer. The new brewery slowly began to take shape on a 20,000 m2 site in a polder at Crooswijckse Singel (purchased for 40,000 guilders). The project manager for Heineken was head brewer Wilhelm Feltmann, who was also technical director of the brewery.
The Heineken brewery under construction in Rotterdam in 1873 in an almost empty polder (source: Heineken Collection)
The brewery was completed in 1874, at least in its original form. Over the course of the next 100 years or so, the plant underwent a succession of construction projects: after each phase in the company’s development – whether it was a change in its product range or improvements in product technology – something was inevitably added or renovated. This work would always require the services of architects, engineers and contractors.
Wilhelm Feltmann jr (1845-1897) - Jan Schotel (1845-1912) - Arie Didericus Heederik (1862-1937) (source: Heineken Collection and Heederik family archive)
Feltmann and Schotel
One of those involved was the Rotterdam-based architect-engineer Jan Schotel. From 1884 onwards, he regularly worked on the structural expansion of Heineken’s Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij (HBM). The working relationship between Royal HaskoningDHV and Heineken - that endures to this day - was established shortly afterwards in 1886. That was the year in which young Arie Didericus Heederik started out in a career in civil engineering at Technisch Bureau Schotel, Jan Schotel’s engineering firm. Under the guidance of Schotel, over time Arie Heederik became his most important assistant and one of his most loyal employees: in 1911 he celebrated his 25th anniversary with the firm.
Schotel was an accomplished engineer and got on excellently with the conscientious and hard-working head brewer Feltmann. The warm feelings they had for each other are expressed in the letters that have been preserved. “Dear Sir! to my regret, I note from your absence on the 7.56 train this morning, you are still not recovered from your cold,” wrote Schotel with concern. This was followed in the same letter by an account to Feltmann of all the latest news on current projects. In Rotterdam, Schotel’s work for the brewery included the design of cleansing rooms, maturation cellars, boiler house and machinery building, stables, canteen and privaten (or ‘privies’). The large quantity of these tiny cubicles only serves to illustrate the vast scale of the brewery, as well as the hygiene standards and excellent working conditions which Heineken’s Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij was able to guarantee its workers.
Land-registry map with the site location of the privaten in red. On the left the Linker Rotte (an arm of the river Rotte). (source: Stadsarchief Rotterdam, 396-01-11272)
The 1893 planning application to build the smallest buildings on the brewery premises, signed by Schotel and Feltmann. The chance that factory workers had such hygienic provisions at home were slim: Rotterdam was a notoriously dirty and overpopulated city. (source: Stadsarchief Rotterdam, 396-01-11252 (left) and 396-01-11272 (right))
Takeover of firm by Heederik
Schotel’s technical office enjoyed a good reputation. It worked throughout the Netherlands on the construction of (steam) tramways, waterworks and water towers. After Schotel’s death in 1912, Heederik took over the firm in Rotterdam and renamed it: Ingenieursbureau A.D. Heederik (v/h Schotel). He maintained good working relations with Heineken: from now on it was Heederik’s signature that was placed in the bottom right-hand corner of the brewery’s building plans.
From 1913 onwards, Heederik designed a series of new maturation cellars ‘nos. 26 to 30’, a cleansing room and a pitching workshop. Furthermore, he designed new malt silos made from reinforced concrete.
Reinforced concrete was the number one innovation in the construction industry and - following a pioneering phase in which its British inventor, a French florist and a rich landowner made plant pots and small boats from concrete – it became more popular and began to make serious inroads as a building material. However, as had been the case with the construction of railways and the use of steel in bridges, the Dutch lagged behind and were late adopters of concrete. Nevertheless, by around 1910, the ‘engineering establishment’ in the Netherlands had become convinced of the advantages of concrete and more and more buildings were being constructed from this new material. The founding in 1911 of Gewapend beton heralded this breakthrough: this was “a monthly magazine for building in concrete and reinforced concrete and likewise the mouthpiece of the association for manufacturers of steel rods for reinforced concrete”. The chief editor of the magazine was a young concrete enthusiast and civil engineer, Bastiaan Adrianus Verhey (1883-1947).
A knowledge of concrete was the common factor linking three civil and architectural engineers of differing generations. In 1916, the aforementioned Bastiaan Verhey hit upon the idea of establishing an engineering firm specialising in architectural and hydraulic engineering, together with a friend from his student days, Arnold Groothoff (1883-1971), and the somewhat older Adriaan Dwars (1874-1946). All three of them were concrete experts: Groothoff wrote articles in Gewapend beton and Dwars sat on a commission with Verhey which was working to revise all the regulations regarding reinforced concrete.
After a flying start in 1916 – the order books swelled thanks to Groothoff and his valuable connections – and the establishment of the firm ‘Dwars, Groothoff en Verhey’, the latter two contacted A.D. Heederik, the Rotterdam engineer, who they had known from previous work. Their proposal was to collaborate in a ‘union’ of firms. Because of the increase in their numbers, but most of all because of the 55-year old Heederik’s long and valued experience, they considered collaboration as a necessary (commercial) consolidation.
Heederik agreed to the proposal. Was it the fact that he had no obvious successor within his firm and saw collaboration with the younger men as a chance to hand the firm over to them at a future date? Did he feel obliged to help them? Or – and this is probably the most likely reason - was he already speculating on the future for a next generation of engineers? For example, his nephew, Jan Pieter Heederik? It’s surely no coincidence that the (draft) partnership contract included a clause that specified that every party to the contract had the right to appoint someone who could succeed him in the partnership. As long as the successor was “sufficiently proficient” and had gained “an engineering degree from a technical university”.
From left to right: A.D. Heederik, H. de Wolff, little Jan, big Jan, big Bep and little Bep; the children of the two Heederik brothers had been given the same names. Right:Jan Pieter Heederik at home in Rotterdam (source: Heederik family archive)
The contracts were signed, the profit allocations fixed and on 1 January 1917, the Vereenigde ingenieursbureaux voor bouw- en waterbouwkunde came into existence: a union of two firms. This marked the start of an era in which the firms - in Rotterdam and The Hague respectively - operated independently but with joint bookkeeping.
Development of the firm’s name and the arrival and departure of partners – between 1912 and 1936
Heederik and Verhey for Heineken
In Rotterdam, Heederik continued working on the Heineken brewery. Following the successful implementation of reinforced concrete for the malt silos and the construction of a new yeast washing facility on the Crooswijkse Singel site, he worked on the design of a new brewhouse with malt silos. Factories (including breweries) were ideally suited to the application of this modern, cheap and fire-resistant material. So Heederik – once again - used reinforced concrete.
Despite the slump in beer consumption during the First World War, Heineken - now managed by a new generation of directors - saw its turnover increase after 1918. This was the result of company takeovers. The production facilities of the insolvent companies they acquired were shut down but construction on Heineken’s own site steadily progressed.
“The brewhouse forms the heart of brewing operations. The Heineken brewery, which keeps its beers in house for a long time, not least to raise the quality before delivering to customers, therefore requires a large brewhouse. To this end, they will be locating a new brewhouse at Linker Rottekade,” the Rotterdams Nieuwsblad wrote in 1923.
The future building displayed some impressive dimensions: 18 metres in width, 30 metres in depth, equipped with a cellar and five overlying floors. The design of architect Willem Kromhout (1864-1940) was described as “a remarkable chunk of factory architecture.” Heederik worked a chunk of concrete into the building which was - to say the least - just as ‘remarkable’. The Rotterdam-based contractor, Amstel en Janssen, completed the structure.
Location of the brewhouse (number 61) at Linker Rottekade in Rotterdam. On (fragment) of map of the Heineken premises in 1924. (source: Stadsarchief Amsterdam)
Left: Impression of the brewhouse, by architect W. Kromhout. (source: het Nieuwe Instituut/Krom 71-43). Right: The brewhouse under construction, ca.1924. (source: Heederik family archive)
The spectacle inside the building: reinforced concrete with timber formwork lying around. Note how proudly the men are posing in the photo, ca. 1924. (source: Heederik family archive)
Retirement and renewal
Little by little, Heederik also handed the firm’s other “purely technical work” to Dwars and Verhey, who had relocated from The Hague to Amersfoort in 1920. The transfer occurred in parallel to his own worsening health conditions. In 1929 he closed his firm in Rotterdam.
As well as the gradual handover of his assignments, including those for Heineken, A.D. Heederik appointed a successor who shared his own surname: his nephew Jan Pieter Heederik. Jan Pieter qualified as a civil engineer in Delft in 1929 and entered service with Dwars and Verhey’s firm in the same year. He was a determined young man and - not unexpectedly - he turned out to be an asset. Five years later he became Bastiaan Verhey’s new partner in the firm.
The spring of 1934 was a turbulent one for both the older and the aspiring partners. A growing conflict between Dwars and Verhey had not helped ease Jan Pieter Heederik into a role in the partnership, which effectively saw him succeed his uncle. But on 1 April 1934, the die was cast: on becoming one of the firm’s partners, the young Heederik noted down excitedly in his journal “Baas!” From that moment on, the firm was called: Ingenieursbureau Dwars, Heederik en Verhey.
Perhaps it was the death of his uncle in 1937, more than the arrival of Jan Pieter Heederik, that marked the end of an era. Nevertheless, relations between the engineering firm and the brewery continue to this day. The ongoing growth of Heineken outside the Netherlands provided new generations of the firm’s engineers with a whole succession of assignments worldwide, ranging from work on the Surabaya brewery in Indonesia in the 1950s to the expansion of the Heineken brewery in Nigeria from 1971 onwards and the new Vung Tau brewery in Vietnam in 2020.
About this project
In October 2021 Royal HaskoningDHV will celebrate its 140th birthday. To mark this milestone, we have commissioned a series of striking stories highlighting key moments in the firm’s history. We are proud of our heritage and this is a great opportunity to share our stories with a wider audience. From January to October 2021, we will publish a new story each month.