"Rotterdam: Architecture Capital" Rotterdam by RubenE

Rotterdam Travel Guide: 1,536 reviews and 4,070 photos

Rotterdam is a city of modern architecture. This is true particularly in the city center that was totally destroyed during World War II. Here you will see many examples of new architectural styles in the form of buildings erected within the last sixty years. The lack of an historical environment combined with an international orientation and a history of "thinking big" means that Rotterdam can offer a kind of urbanity that allows new, innovative phenomena to thrive. Rapidly changing opinions and concepts in its society and the application of new building materials and technologies are constantly resulting in new architectural manifestations.

The construction of the New Waterway in 1872 ensured that Rotterdam would become the world's largest port. Soon, Rotterdam-Zuid was undergoing major urban expansions near the docks. The growing importance of Rotterdam as a seaport was reflected in its city center where the concept of "thinking big" was becoming ever more apparent: canals were being filled in to make way for increasing traffic activities. Being built on Coolsingel were such large buildings as the Town Hall (1920) and the Post Office (1923).

It was during this period that an architectural and artistic movement known as De Stijl became popular. This movement was very much unlike that of previous traditional architectural styles and symbolized a new way of experiencing space in all kinds of artistic forms. In architecture, this movement was represented by several buildings that were realized right before the outbreak of World War II such as the Beursgebouw (1940), the office tower known as the Erasmushuis (1940) and the department store known as De Bijenkorf (1938). It was during the 1930s that the first experiments in high-rise projects were made. The Bergpolderflat (an apartment building) can be recorded as the world's very first galleried apartment house.

Five days after the bombardment, the city's architect, W.G. Witteveen, received the assignment to make a plan for the reconstruction of Rotterdam's city center. Instead of the pre-war mixture of urban functions, his plan was for a modern city with separate functions. There was no place anymore for polluting industries in the middle of the city. Neither was there much importance placed on a residential function here. Instead, the city center focused on its economic function.

The very first buildings to appear in the city center after the bombardment displayed a tendency toward pre-war traditions: large sober office buildings that looked like large houses and which were built of brick. It was not long, however, before the international Modernist concept took over in the further development of the city center. In comparison with the more traditional brick construction, the constructive possibilities offered by concrete were much greater and it thus became possible to develop new - and much more spacious - forms. In realizing these buildings, the architects were also reflecting the new major technological and social developments of the day.

Then, in the mid-1980s, another turning point was reached in ideas for designing the city: the city center should become a lively inhabited place again. More attention was devoted to the appearance of the buildings. Also becoming increasingly important were two more objectives: the designing of public space as a place to enjoy the urban environment, and the improvement of shopping facilities. More office towers and residential skyscrapers were appearing in the city center. Deserted docks became sought-after residential locations and, with the development of the Kop van Zuid and the building of the Erasmus Bridge (1996), the Nieuwe Maas became a binding element in the city center instead of cutting the city in two. Many new cultural facilities appeared such as the Kunsthal (1992), the Netherlands Architecture Institute (1993) and the New Luxor Theater (2001).

The continuous development of its modern city center is making Rotterdam both a laboratory and a podium for modern architecture in which innovation is the number one priority.

  • Last visit to Rotterdam: Oct 2003
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (27)

Comments (22)

  • kenHuocj's Profile Photo
    Jan 20, 2007 at 5:16 AM

    to the young man of Rotterdam, i salute your coming of age, & hope though Google notebook, pages and Blogger, you will have a record of your Architectural projects and ideas, i'll to be around in twenty one years to read about your successes ;-)))

  • Oct 30, 2006 at 11:27 PM

    What an excellent page!!! I really would love to spend more time exploring this city. Fab photos and great info here too - thanks! Maria :)

  • Toyin's Profile Photo
    Feb 9, 2005 at 8:40 PM

    Excellent pictures, good tips. I have enjoyed your page of Rotterdam. Regards.

  • asianbelle's Profile Photo
    Jan 4, 2005 at 12:58 AM

    Really great shots of Erasmus Bridge! How I envy you. I tried taking a pic of it at night but end up with nothing but darkness. :-(

  • ATLC's Profile Photo
    Jul 13, 2004 at 3:33 PM

    Enjoyed your page about my favourite Dutch city. Thank you!

  • BabciaMaine's Profile Photo
    Oct 16, 2003 at 5:43 AM

    quite interesting architechture . Thank you for your information

  • Goldenboy's Profile Photo
    Oct 16, 2003 at 5:15 AM

    Omigod, i didnt see the david star. Have to be back again soon then. Cheers!!

  • craic's Profile Photo
    May 15, 2003 at 10:05 AM

    Interesting page with its bias towards architecture.

  • o00o's Profile Photo
    Apr 19, 2003 at 6:05 PM

    I was here only for a short while, must go back again...

  • Apr 15, 2003 at 11:20 AM

    gr 8 architecture.


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