Rotterdam, the ‘Phoenix city’ which emerged from the ashes lifestyle
Known as ‘The Manhattan of the Meuse’, this city welcomes, exhibits and tries out the new artistic trends in each of it different areas.
The cube houses (Kubuswoningen) by Piet Blom; the central library, (Bibliotheek); the Markthal market; the Erasmus bridge (Erasmusbrug) and the Witte Huis skyscraper are some of the most impressive buildings in this metropolis.
The sustainable commitment of this city is visible in initiatives such as the DakkAker urban garden and the Luchtpark Hofbogen public park.
Rotterdam is the best definition of “Phoenix city”. In the same way that this mythological bird resurfaced from its own ashes, the city rose again firmly after the Nazi invasion.
The 90 Stuka bombers which flew over the sky of Rotterdam on May 14, 1940 destroyed everything they found in their path, reduced the city to a cluster of rubble. According to the data of the time, a total of 250 hectares were burned in the air raid, 25.000 houses were demolished; more than 600 people were killed and 80.000 people were left homeless.
After Hitler’s “coup”, the city quickly overcame all that with a new urban model based on voluptuous, compact and geometric buildings. The future was beginning to be founded. Futurism, too.
The Rotterdam Club
Rotterdam was rebuilt thanks to the collective effort of its neighbours and the initiatives promoted by Cees van der Leeuw, the director of the tobacco, chocolate and coffee factory from the Van Nelle factory. Founder of the Rotterdam Club (a clandestine association that brought together some of the most important merchants from the city), the work that this collective did with the new architects allowed for buildings as emblematic as the Groothandelsgebouw, the church of San Lorenzo (Laurenskerk ) to be built. Also, the building and creation of new areas such as: the Linjnbaan (the first pedestrian shopping street in Europe), the Euromast tower (designed by the rationalist architect Huig Aart Maaskant between 1958 and 1960) or the Rotterdam Cube Houses (Kubuswoning), built by the architect Piet Blom in 1984.
With more than 600.000 inhabitants, Rotterdam has established itself as a laboratory city of contemporary architecture. The cutting-edge movements which emerged during the second half of the twentieth century found in their streets the necessary inspiration to experiment and look for new artistic languages.
From its town hall (one of the few buildings that survived the Nazi bombing) to the central station (Centraal Station), The White House (Witte Huis), passing through its central library (Bibliotheek), the market (Markthal) or the bridge of Erasmus (Erasmusbrug), the city represents that European modernity based on sustainability, art and cultural miscegenation.
The avant-garde movements that emerged during the second half of the twentieth century found in the streets of this city the necessary inspiration to experiment and look for new artistic languages.
The city centre is the best example. In the Blaaak district, historicism and avant-garde go hand in hand in the same space. This is the case with Markthal, the Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen), the Gothic church of Laurenskerk or the town hall (Stadhuis) are mandatory stops in this area. The Bijenkorf shopping centre, the Schouwburgplein open plaza or the Timmerhuis municipal building are all impressive in their own right, designed by the Rem Koolhass OMA studio (Pritzker Award 2000).
The White House (Witte Huis) was built in 1898 and its 45m height made it the first ever skyscraper in Europe.
In this part there is also Witte Huis. Known as The White House, this 45-metre-high building is work by the architect, Molenbroek. Built in 1898 under modernist principles, its 10 floors made it the first hoogbouw (skyscraper) in Europe.
With a large number of parks and green spaces, the architecture of this city adapts to the natural and urban environment of each area. As is the case now in many cities, Rotterdam began its particular Ecological Transition a few years ago.
Initiatives like DakkAker, the largest urban garden in Europe, the public park, located on the roof of the old Hofplein Station or the floating forest (Dobberend Bos) which was “planted” in the middle of the seaport, make that environmental commitment visible that the city signed up to after the reconstruction.
To become the most sustainable city in the world before 2025, the city council, together with the port authorities, have devised a series of ecological measures to reduce the carbon footprint by up to 20%, curbing climate change in the process.
The Rotterdam city hall and the port authorities have devised a series of ecological measures to reduce the carbon footprint by up to 20%.
Another of the challenges set by the City Council is to build a large wind farm in the port to supply 200.000 homes with energy. “In 2030 we want to produce more sustainable energy than what we consume as a city. Rotterdam has many opportunities with wind and solar energy, which will also be a reality in the future, ”Efe Langenberg, head of the Sustainability, Mobility and Culture area of the Rotterdam City Council, told the agency.
Recommended visits from Rotterdam
A city turned into a museum
Because of its strategic location and the continuous commercial activity of its port, which is considered as being the largest in Europe, Rotterdam always imported and exported products that did not exist in other places, namely: coffee and tobacco. Given its location and all its maritime connections, this port receives about 400 million tons of cargo every year and about 35.000 maritime vessels arrive there. Its facilities are equipped to handle chemicals, minerals, dry cargo, vehicles and refrigerated raw materials.
This maritime trade greatly enriched the city and made its artistic and cultural heritage grow. A clear example of this are the different museums in the city which are a part of Museum park. Among them, it is worth mentioning the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. In its rooms, one can find work by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Dalí, Mondrian and Picasso; the Maritime Museum of Rotterdam (Maritiem museum), the Dutch Photography Museum (Nederlands Fotomuseum), the Rotterdam Museum (Museum Rotterdam), the Kunsthal, a symbolic icon of modernist architecture and also one of the most important contemporary art centres in the city. Also, the Natural History Museum (Natuurhistorisch Museum) and the World Museum (Wereldmuseum), which showcase artistic pieces from Japan, Tibet, Oceania and Africa.
Secret places in Rotterdam
- Lijnbaan is the first shopping high street in Rotterdam which brings some of the city’s most exclusive fashion establishments together. The project by the architects, Van den Broek & Bakema, takes up an area of 41.800m2.
- Katendrecht is one of the most bohemian neighbourhoods in Rotterdam. In this quarter, can one find art galleries, florist’s (MK floral Design) and exotic restaurants which have absolutely nothing to do with ‘fast food’ chains.
- Fenix Food Factory. The most cutting-edge market in the city, where one can find period furniture, discontinued books and state-of-the-art restaurants.
- Schorem barber’s. One of the most famous ‘hipster’ establishments in Rotterdam. Its success has led to a training academy being created to provide the new generations with old-school knowledge.
- Luchtsingel. These yellow stairs connect the city centre with the north. Around there, one can find some of the most curious designer shops in the city, such as that owned by the designer, Susan Bilj.