Rotterdam’s Buildings Are a Delight for the Eyes
Rotterdam is a feast for the eyes, if you love interesting buildings and daring architecture. I took a bike ride making a giant loop around the city yesterday with Narjara Grondman, a trained architect who showed me some of her favorite buildings and gave some background into the history of the city.
During WWII, most of the city was bombed, so what we see now are post war buildings with just a few exceptions. Dominating the city skyline is the Erasmus bridge, built in the early ’90s, and it takes trains, cars and of course, bicycles, across the river in nicely separated lanes. In the beginning they had problems with the harp-like cables, so they had to go back and add more flex so the bridge could expand on windy days. Visible behind the bridge are three ginormous buildings, which have the same hallmark as many other buildings here–many voids and cut outs. The ones on the right with balconies are residential, in the middle is the city government building.
We pedaled along the bike lane and came across many buildings with large wings sticking out, and open areas between buildings, and circular designs. A factory for Unilever sticks out as if it’s been plopped down by God perpendicular to the river. The gorgeous Market Hall uses special glass that flexes in the wind on either end of its massive circular shape. Up on the sides of the curved walls is a gigantic mural depicting the horn of plenty, with windows that open to the apartments that are placed on either side. This monstrous building goes down four floors below, and on the ground floor has gourmet foods of all types, in the middle is the open escalators that go to a parking garage, a supermarket and a huge wine store.
I was surprised that in a city with fewer than 700,000 residents, there are so many high-rise buildings. Following a trend seen in the US, younger workers want to live right in the city, so these deluxe condos and next-to-the-action apartments are all quickly rented. There are also many people here who live on houseboats. In the Maritime Museum, I got a chance to see several scale models that show how comfy it is below those former grain hauler barges, now turned into spacious live-aboards.