By Antonio Malara
Rotterdam was a daily trip during one of the days of my stay in Amsterdam spent with my close friends and that I have told in this post here. I had read an article that indicated Rotterdam as more modern and technological than Amsterdam and this intrigued me a lot. Especially from the point of view of architecture, Rotterdam was described as a city that dared, where aesthetics did not necessarily respect the tradition of the place. In addition to these ideas, with my friends, we were so bored with Amsterdam that the daily trip was interpreted as a necessary and therapeutic escape, so much so that the train ride didn’t worry us at all.
We left Amsterdam Centra Station around 10:40 AM and the journey took about an hour. During the trip we mostly joked about taking weird pictures with one of my friends who was sleeping all the time. The view along the route was not great, many cultivated fields and a few scattered houses here and there. Upon arrival in Rotterdam, modern architecture showed itself immediately, in fact two tall skyscrapers in steel and glass stood just to the left immediately after the exit. Another design work was the station, a large roof with curved lines that started from the bottom and went up to form a 90 degree angle on the right, the front was a huge window. The plan didn’t include particular things to see, except for the Euromast, the observation tower, the Cubic Houses and the Erasmus Bridge. We would have discovered the rest by exploring the city because in any case the center was small and I hoped all the design works were there.
We headed to Weena, a four-lane road where I immediately noticed how the city was pedestrian-friendly with large, neat and clean sidewalks. The other thing that continued to manifest itself on the same road was modern architecture, it was practically everywhere. On the left of the road there was a building with four overhangs and right on our side a skyscraper that had the inscription "W 200", I don't know if that was the name but I know it was very original. Narrow and long it was made up of three blocks in a semicircle but the nice thing was the final or initial part based on where you started to look at it. Let's call the tip that, it was a tower connected by a sort of walkway which, however, was a structure of about three floors. Seeing that very high 90-degree angle, so high with the void below was spectacular, Rotterdam struck me immediately! Right at the intersection of this building, began the shopping street called Lijnbaan, very beautiful and wide with trees and flower beds in the center. There were also restaurants in the area but we had decided to remain loyal to Vapiano, which however was located near the W 200 building. I mapped out a path to return there by walking around several blocks. Along the way and precisely in a square, we stopped to take pictures with a sort of giant gnome, I don't know if it was a temporary or permanent statue. Another uniquely designed building that we came across was the one that housed Pauluskerk. I don't know if it was a kind of church but it had a design where triangular cuts formed a round figure, especially in the front, it looks like a giant bomb. After that we went towards Vapiano when we arrived at around 12:30 AM and took our typical pasta dish as good Italians and always as such we made lunch last almost an hour.
We returned to explore around 1:27 PM with destination the neighborhood where Piet Blom's Cubic Houses were located. All strictly on foot, I had no intention of taking public transport for that day. The path was simple; it was a question of returning to the shopping street and then turning left once arrived at the intersection with Blaak. This road was very beautiful, wide with trees and where everything passed; car, tram and cycle path. The street ended in a large terminal-tram stop and was a real nerve center. The station reminded me of a design work I had seen in Shanghai, only that the Chinese one represented an antenna pointing upwards, this one from Rotterdam looked like an antenna that had fallen to the ground. The roof of the terminal was in fact the circular part of the “antenna” and a bent arm started from the roof and ended beyond the terminal and the tracks. The place was very popular and besides the Cubic Houses it had other very beautiful works that I did not know. The most majestic was a large three-dimensional arch, essentially a rectangular but arched structure where in the front as well as on the back it was closed by an immense glass window. It was the “Markthal” and I did not know this structure at all which, beyond the market and the restaurants it housed, for me had above all an aesthetic value. Surprises like these, when I travel, fill me with joy, as I have said on other occasions, studying a place in detail is essential, but when something escapes us and we discover it there on the spot, it is even more beautiful. This huge structure impressed me so much that I took dozens of photos of it. To do this, I went in the center of the large square from where I could also see other structures of original design. One of these was the central library, this pyramid design structure was white but had large yellow external pipes. On the roof there was a blue container, all these details created an original shape, like the Pompidou center in Paris but much more basic. The Cubic Houses that were the reason we were there, we left them for last and in the end they were the things that impressed me least. These houses were preceded by an original hexagonal tower and then the famous cubic sections that had a gray roof and yellow walls. Normally these original structures excite me a lot but in the case of the Cubic Houses this has not happened. Probably because these cubic sections were basically like roofs on a traditional reinforced concrete structure. It may be that the peculiarity had to be this but to me it was out of tune. Perhaps the most original thing was the fact that under part of the houses, they formed a tunnel allowing the tram tracks to pass.
Leaving the area, we headed to the lakefront to go and observe the Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge), the white bridge that I had put on the list of things to see. Just as we were crossing a secondary water canal, another structure caught my attention. A steel and glass building which consisted of two overlapping blocks and a separate tower, the steel part was colored red and as I looked at it I was happy for the people who dared to create such structures. The Erasmus Bridge was the image with which I identified the city and this is because in the article I read about Rotterdam, there was a photo of it. To tell the truth, the image attracted me because in addition to the bridge there was another structure; a skyscraper composed of three towers built in a decentralized way. When I finally saw the place with my own eyes I was really excited, the bridge was very modern and muscular looking. The two sloping towers that joined in the center gave a sense of strength. The front and rear tie rods completed this effect of "power" and all this with the backdrop of those very strange skyscrapers. I took dozens and dozens of photos, in all possible focal lengths because I wanted my Erasmus Bridge image, the one to be printed and framed. Still on the riverside, I discovered another bridge, all red and very simple but the color gave it a personal touch that made it worthy of the photos too.
I photographed the Erasmus Bridge until I was practically in front of it, then we continued to the next destination which was the Euromast Tower. In fact it was not really close but the tower was at the end of Het Park, a very large area, so in fact after a hundred meters we immersed ourselves in the park. It was a pleasant walk of about fifteen minutes in a setting totally surrounded by greenery. I don't know if it was due to the reflection of the bottom, but the course of water that passed inside the park was also green, a very nice effect anyway.
I had studied the Euromast a bit and it was a modest height observation tower, which had also been further lengthened by adding levels over the years. I didn't have high expectations but it was still an important vantage point for looking at the city from above. In fact, even in presence, the tower was not impressive; it had two platforms of different shapes and then an antenna on top. We got the tickets and we went up in short time and once I got to the top I changed my mind. The terrace of the tower had no bulky protections, in fact just a simple railing over a meter high. This was an important fact for me and Rotterdam from above was simple and beautiful. From the side of the center I could see everything clearly and the city was the backdrop to the park. The fact that the center was small but with the right structures, gave a clear and uniform panorama, an original and relaxing view. The other side instead overlooked the port area and was dominated by low houses. The time on the tower was spent in a carefree way, taking photos, shooting videos and then we started playing with an object that was exhibited inside, namely the typical Dutch clogs but which were in giant size.
We stayed on the tower for about an hour, that was the last visit, after which we headed towards the center and the station; it was about 5 PM and our tour was almost over. On the way back I tried to make different parallel streets in order to see new buildings and I must say that Rotterdam did not betray from this point of view. Arriving at the station, I had a bit of regret photographing the building that was to the left of the entrance. Right there, a few months earlier they had installed a beautiful temporary work. It was a flight of steps that led from the station square to the roof of the building I described before. I knew that I would not see it but before entering the station I paused for a while and tried to imagine it.
I have only good memories of Rotterdam and a totally positive experience. Laughter with friends, walks, photos and the discovery, street after street, of a modern and expanding city. I especially love cities that are not afraid to add bizarre structures to their urban plan, a little strange but which are original and in a certain sense works of art. In the case of Rotterdam this was also highlighted by the often very bright colors of the structures. If from the point of view I ranked Rotterdam on the top, on the other I’m left with the curiosity to discover the city under other aspects such as entertainment. From that point of view I have not studied it and certainly if I return I will take particular care of that aspect. In fact, if a city like Rotterdam also had to have nightclubs up to par, it could seriously be considered a reference for entertainment. Aesthetics and pleasure are not two things that always go hand in hand so if I go back to Rotterdam, I will try to find out if this city can combine these two different aspects.
Pictures: Antonio Malara
Camera: Nikon D800