Frederique Spigt sang about the creativity of the Maas city at the time of its appointment as Cultural Capital of 2001: „So beautiful, the image of this city. As if it is illuminated from within. ” Twenty years later, Rotterdam is still on the move, but nothing is going on high off the tower.
The latter is the conclusion of Martijn van der Mark, senior policy advisor Creative Industry and Media at the municipality of Rotterdam. Today he takes us on a tour through the – because of the corona crisis – quiet streets that nevertheless bustle with activity. We start at the Wilhelminapier on the Kop van Zuid, with its characteristic Hotel New York pointing straight to the Maas.
To get to the tip of the pier, you navigate between a selection high end high residential towers that also characterize the acclaimed skyline of the city: the nHow hotel, Montevideo and Rem Koolhaas’ De Rotterdam. Opposite renovated warehouses, honoring history, which include hotel Room Mate Bruno and the food halls. It is precisely that contrast between shiny new and modest old that makes this area worth a visit. Here you can feel the history and the present.
Although none of this would have been there if, exactly 25 years ago this year, the characteristic Erasmus Bridge had not been built. Because the headquarters of the Holland America Line and its departure halls were beautiful, but otherwise it was mainly an area for a port that also moved further out of the city. The municipality, the hitherto strong but not too large creative class that sat in the vacant headquarters and private investors joined forces.
“Renewal but with attention to the past. No ambition to keep or innovate, something in between ”, Martijn van der Mark describes it. Something that is happening a stone’s throw further, no doubt thanks to the success of the Wilhelminapier.
For years, Katendrecht was the neighborhood where the migrants settled, with housing and, honestly, we must be honest, with all the associated problems. Here too the peninsula is thrown open with the help of a bridge. Its origins are now being honored, with the private Movers Museum due to open this or next year. Next to it, the transparent glass of the apartments, built on top of the old sheds, shimmers. Sheds in which now must visitlocations are established, with the Fenix Food Factory at the forefront.
Skeptics can describe it as a hip supermarket, others see it as a place where local acquaintances sell their wares: the bread from Jordy’s Bakery, known in Rotterdam, the natural wines from Blije Wijnen, the artisanal raw milk cheeses from Booij Kaasmakers, the beers from the Kaapse Brouwers with their smashing design and names such as Kaapse Carrie and Kaapse Gozer (Rotterdam-style: gozah).
The latter are a good example of the creativity in design that Rotterdam houses. Not so much very distinctive; every self-respecting city has its own beers with hip labels, but remember that long before the Second World War, Rotterdam was an expert in striking advertisements and an example of how to take good care of your employees.
The Van Nelle Fabriek is known as the most modern factory in the Netherlands. Showcase of functionalism, with a facade of steel and glass instead of just soulless bricks. Lots of daylight in the workplace and advertisements that are popular collectors in 2021.
Van der Mark, a resident of Rotterdam for 25 years, takes the opportunity to mention the architecture of the Rotterdam School. Because the buildings of the Amsterdam School may be famous, the construction ‘from here’ also has the necessary toppers, with in addition to the Van Nelle factory also the first gallery flat in the world, the Bergpolderflat in Noord, with good living conditions and ditto prices for the workers. .
Another example: the tube chairs from Gispen in Rotterdam: nothing shiny, except for the functional tubes of the design, but practical, functional and affordable. Actually, the creativity of the Maasstad can still be described in those three words.
The Industriegebouw seen from above.
For example, Het Industriegebouw is known as an icon of reconstruction, realized just after WWII on behalf of the municipality and one of the first multi-company buildings in the Netherlands. More than 200 companies, from start-ups to PR agencies and from architectural firms (such as MRDV, creators of the Markthal) to landscape designers (Lola Landscapes, known from the Adidas park), find each other in an inspiring environment.
The low ceilings and stone walls were replaced by height and light in 2015, all to stimulate creativity. The flat screens stacked in the entrance with burning log fires, the ‘Digital Bonfire’ by designer Maarten Baas, summarize the atmosphere in one fell swoop: by putting different items and functions together, something beautiful is created. Just like on the Wilhelminapier at the time and with many other projects, ‘together’ is the magic word that connoisseur Van der Mark regularly uses.
Always with a dose of humor and further thinking: the founders of Alfredo’s Taqueria may be known for their socks, but they also love Mexican food. They invented the ground floor eatery. The owners of the American diner By Jarmusch (‘Rotterdam did not have such a breakfast concept yet’) quickly transformed their large outdoor terrace in the first lockdown into an expedition street where cars drive through and the occupants are provided with all the goodies that the providers in that building on the have menu.
Around the corner in the former warehouse is the well-known restaurant Heroin: high quality food without the oppressive finery of some star restaurants. That is also Rotterdam: offering quality, not being too difficult about it, achieving success and showing that with a small smile without saying that you are the best.
Although there is so much more going on in the city, we end at Tropicana. Where the chlorinated water used to slide down the slides and weak fries were served and where legendary parties were later held, the future is also being worked on. In Blue City, as it is now called, there are companies that focus on practical but especially sustainable innovations.
Insulation material made of seaweed; after all, there is still room for improvement in the field of sustainability. Vowels of mud, we have had enough of them after all. Beer of which the residual water and waste is reused by the neighbors. In the laboratory where the dressing rooms and saunas used to be, tenants can experiment and research.
In this way, the past is also combined with the future here. Well, there are always current problems to overcome. But it may be quieter than ever on the streets of Rotterdam, this is where it happens!
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