Rotterdam is a harbour city with rough charm and a sparkling skyline. In the city on the river Maas, neon-lit highrises meet gems of classical modern architecture as well as contemporary harbour conversions.
Most of all, though, Rotterdam always offered much more space for architectural experiments than the picture book town of Amsterdam. The city first gained importance in the 19th century, when its harbour grew exponentially within just a few years, parallel to the industrialization of the Ruhr area in Germany. During this time, the leap to the opposite side of the river took place, creating harbour areas and workers’ housing estates on the southern riverside.
During World War II, the old centre of Rotterdam was completely destroyed. What remained was a city without a heart. After the war, planners saw the resulting tabula rasa as a chance to realize a modern city center with a radical separation of functions.
In the late 1990s, the unconventional square design of Schouwburgplein and the culture cluster of Museumpark, including the Dutch Architecture Institute, were created in the city centre. Then the most recent leap across the river took place: With the Erasmusbridge, Rotterdam hasn’t only acquired a new landmark, but also laid a connection between the city centre and harbour peninsula Kop van Zuid, which has been converted into a 120 hectare housing- and office area over the last years.
Now the project is nearing completion, and gentrification is extending to the adjoining peninsula Katendrecht.
But the city centre has also undergone a change over the last decades. More and more residential skyscrapers have been inserted, in an attempt to densify the area. In combination with new megaprojects, such as the Central Station, multifunctional highrise De Rotterdam by OMA and the Market Hall by MVRDV, this has resulted in a thorough reanimation of the post-war city.