Rotterdam: An Architect’s Playground

For so long cast in the shadow of neighboring rival Amsterdam, the Dutch city of Rotterdam might finally be having its moment. Following a series of innovative and experimental architectural projects, this port city has emerged as something of a designer’s playground, showcasing some of the most unique buildings the world has ever seen and, in turn, informing the future of structural design. Dotted with landmark construction and innovative building methods, Rotterdam is paving the way for the future of architecture; one need simply stroll down its stretch of waterfront to witness a huge range of architecture, each build as innovative as the last.

Responsible for making supposed forward-thinking Amsterdam look positively old hat, Rotterdam is a shining beacon of design ingenuity. It is possible, in its existing structural landscape, to track a series of rapid architectural changes that have taken place. One visit to the place is an architect’s dream and, if you have design on your mind, you might consider making this Netherlands city your next cultural destination of choice.

While there are a great deal of buildings making Rotterdam’s case, there are a select few that really push architectural boundaries, going where no other building project has gone before. The Smog Free Tower, for example, while considerably small at only seven meters in height, processes 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour and helps to clear the city’s air pollution. The exterior design of the building helps to purify the atmosphere, removing ultra-fine smog particles from the air and pumping out clean ones in their place. Even more impressive, the structure uses the equivalent energy of a water boiler, making it one of the most energy-efficient builds anywhere on the planet.

Elsewhere, traditional structures are getting a do-over, rebuilt in unusual architectural casings. The city’s central train station features a mammoth angular canopy that juts into the sky, projecting outwards into a large public space. Going against years of steel-clad station design, the build lets in a huge amount of light into the central atrium, bathing visitors in sunbeams as they make their daily commute.m n

It’s not all about mammoth structures, either; across the city, Rotterdam proves that every type of building should be subject to the correct amount of care and attention. Once named the ugliest sights in Rotterdam, a city-based branch of McDonald’s was given a makeover by local architectural firm Mei Architects. Now the fast food chain features a metal- and glass-clad casing, exposing its sleek and minimalist interior design. The functionality of the shop holds true to other McDonald’s designs, but by toeing outside of the architectural lines just slightly, it serves as an example of how intelligent aesthetics can really help to transform a space.

There’s a lot to be said on the domestic front as well, and perhaps the most impressive are the city’s cubic houses. Having been conceived by architect Piet Blom in the 1970’s, the geometric design has since been repeated in the Dutch city as as a way of solving the construction problem of providing ample ground floor square footage on small lots. Slotted on top of a pedestrian bridge, the houses balance on the top of a hexagonal pole, looking out onto the city through a series of angular windows. While the homes are disorientating from the outside, inside they are incredibly functional, fitting in a living space, bathroom, and bedroom, with an entire extra floor to spare.

Across the city, new architectural projects are springing up as fast as they can. Throughout Rotterdam, there are visual offerings to please any kind of taste; whether you prefer the clean lines of mega tower De Rotterdam or the bulbous curves of giraffe enclosure Savannehuis, there’s something for you. With so much ingenuity on their doorstep, Rotterdam is making bold steps into the future, and now the only question that remains on everyone’s lips is: where will the city go next?

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.

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