Street Scenes, Sights, and Art, Rotterdam
It was in the late 20th century when Rotterdam became what is called “Manhattan aan de Maas”. But already in the 1950s, some unusual buildings appeared in Rotterdam. First, the shops at the Lijnbaan which were incorporated in a new kind of pedestrian zone which was copied all over the world. But also the building of the Bijenkorf department store. It can be seen as a little sister to the UNESCO building in Paris. Both were designed by the same architect (Marcel Breuer) at the same time. Today, it does not look very shining compared to other buildings in Rotterdam. But its unusual façade with its hexagonal structures (Bijenkorf is dutch for beehive) and its dark structures on the brighter background will make you look twice.
The sculpture to the right was made by artist Naum Gabo in the 1950s. It has earned many nicknames - in a positive and negative way.
This modern sculpture by Auke de Vries was revealed in 1981 after the opening of the Willemsbrug. It connected the new bridge which was pulled down in 1993. One of this bridge’s bases was preserved only for this sculpture. The Maasbeeld consists of a steel cable with several items (flag, ball, etc.) hanging down from it. That gave it the nickname “waslijn” (laundry line). The Maasbeld is subject to the power of natures: The water of the Nieuwe Maas and the wind. These are also symbol for the sea trade – the factor which powers Rotterdam.
Known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, this humanist of the 15th and 16th century is the most famous person connected with Rotterdam. His works are seen as far ahead of his time, especially regarding his thoughts on tolerance and acceptance of other religions and cultures. Erasmus had a large influence on what later would be called the Protestant Reformation. Although he lived only for a short time in Rotterdam, he added the element “Roterodamus” (of Rotterdam) to his name, making himself the city’s most famous child. One of his most famous quotations goes like this: “When I have money, I spend it for books. If I still have some, I spend it for food and clothing”. Some 500 years later, a bloody tourist picked it up, altered it and used it for his own purposes. Other honours include the Erasmusbrug, Erasmus University and Erasmuslijn (metro line). Also, the student exchange program of the European Union was named after him.
The statue of Erasmus is the oldest statue in Rotterdam. It was revealed in 1622, replacing an older, wooden one. The statue stood on several places in Rotterdam after finding its current place in front of the Sint Laurenskerk.
This new stock exchange and conference center was built after WWII, replacing a predecessor building. The first Rotterdam Beurs dates back to 1598 and has only little to do with today’s sykscraper. The eliptical tower, the best-known part of this complex, was inaugurated in 1987. It has a height of 93 meters.
The statue in the entrance is the one of Gijsbert Karel van Hogendorp. He was a famous lawyer, a conservative politician and one of the fathers of the new dutch constitution of 1815.
Along the Boopjeskaden, there are couple of smaller attarctions to see: The Flag parade, the Boompjes skyscrapers and the modern sculpture “de waslijn” (Maasbeeld). I would like to add also the “Maquette Oude Maasbruggen”. This scaled model gives you an impression of how the river Nieuwe Maas looked like before the old train bridge was pulled down in 1993. Just look through a small telescope which is adjusted nearby. The maquette represents a short part of the former train bridge which was pulled down. For more information about this bridge, look for my tip about “De Hef”.
An interesting kind of city square can be found at Schouwburgplein. It was designed in the 1960s anf finished in the early 1990s with assistance by a group of several artists. It is a reflection of Rotterdam’s harbour with the open space symbolizing the water and four “cranes” used for illumination as harbour structure. The floor of this square consists of wooden and metal matels which can be brought to different heights, creating different sized “stages” on that square. The “cranes” can be moved by ordinary people like you and me, although the control panels are often subject to vandalism. This makes Schouwburgplein a popular place for open-air events of all kinds. The most important buildings around Schouwburgplein are the “Pathé” megabioscoop (large cinema), “De Doelen” (concert hall and congress center) and a parking garage which is directly unter the square. Restaurants and even appartment houses are also found around this square.
“Het Potlood” (the pencil) is the nickname of this multi-storey living house. It was finished by Piet Blom in 1984 and ´has a height of slightly over 60 meters. Perhaps people would pay more attention to it, if it wouldn’t be next to two even more abstract building complexes: The Kubuswoningen (cubic houses, also by Piet Blom) and the public library.
Three different names, but the same skyscraper. This wedge-shaped building is used by the KPN, a telecommunication company. Beside its unusual architecture, it is worth seeing for something else: As soon as it gets dark, the lights installed at the building’s front begin to show different shapes. It’s nothing spectacular, but a nice lightshow of unusual size.
Next to the “Nationale Nederlanden Gebouw”, the Millenium Toren (Millenium Tower) is one of the dominant buildings at the station square. It was finished in 2000 (easy to guess…) and is now a hotel / office building. Its neighbouring buildings, with offices, shops and a casino as well as its central location makes it very popular. With 149 meters of height (including antenna), it is only two meters lower than its neighbour.
or zandsculpturen in de Plaza as locals would say...
Plaza shopping center is a small shopping center located in a building complex, close to the train station. The buildings are better known for their offices, restaurants and Holland Casino, but there are also some shops. In Summertime, you will always find sand sculptures in this shopping center, every year with a different theme. In 2006, it was to promote the North Sea Jazz Festival, which was held in Den Haag the years before. Now, this festival is also part of the huge Rotterdam festival agenda. Other small events like a fashion show are also taking place here.
The “big trade building” is a symbol of Rotterdam’s recoverry and reconstruction after WWII. Official opening was on June 3rd 1953 by no less than her majesty Queen Juliana. It was once Europe’s largest complex with a length of 200 meters and a width of 85 meters. Today, it is dwarfed by its two high neighbours: The Millenium Tower and Delftse Poort 1 (Nationale Nederlanden gebouw). The places next to the central train station remain popular (restaurants, offices) while some offices further away remain empty. Hopefully, this will change after all the construction works for the new railway are finished, making this area more attractive.
This is the european version of Hollywood’s walk of fame with foot- and handfrints of many international celebrities. Opened in 1990, it grew to become one of Rotterdam’s most popular attractions. Over 225 tiles are seen here at Schiedamsedijk with stars of showbiz like Bon Jovi, Ray Charles, Joe Cocker and many more. Also, some dutch celebrties like Dick Bruna, Johan Cruyff or Inge de Bruijn are represented here. Like its californian counterpart (to which it is linked via their respective comittees), it is in a public area and open 24/7.
If you are close to the Boompjes / Erasmusbrug, why don’t come and see the Vlaggenparade? This is not a real museum – here, you will see 180 flags from different nations as well as some flags used in sea traffic. This place is sometimes used for more formal events. I would like to know more about the single flags (for example, the meaning on the colours), but the only thing you will see are boards telling you which flag belongs to which country. At least, there’s no entry fee.
During my first visit to Rotterdam, in 2004, this building was still under construction. It was finished on December 19th 2005 and was named after a storehouse which once stood on the same place. With 139 meters, it is the highest appartment tower in the Netherlands, its total height including the “M” is 152 meters. That is one meter higher than Delftse Poort 1 (Nationale Nederlanden gebouw) Its location - in a former harbour area under developent, close to Hotel New York - makes it very popular, continuing Rotterdam’s policy of mixing business and living zones.
Completed in 1991, this is the largest building in the Netherlands. Until the construction of “Montevideo”, it was also the highest skyscraper in the country. Its window front makes it a popular object for photographies. The building is used by the insurance company “Nationale Nederlanden” which also has offices in other impressive skyscrapers around the country. Delftse Poort 1 has a height of 151 meters and 41 floors. It is only topped by "Montevideo" (152 meters) because of the new building's "M". But even without this letter, it will lose the place soon. The Maastower (Maastoren) is a new building being constructed at Rotterdam's Kop van Zuid. It will be finished in 2008 and will have a height of 165 meters.
From a certain distance, it may even serve you as an orientation point: It stands next to the central station and is easy to distinguish from other skyscrapers.