Rotterdam Architecture and Art
From: Rotterdam Travel Guide
ABOVE: In Rotterdam, even the trailers used by city work crews may be decorated with murals. INSET BELOW: New housing near the Rotterdam Cruise Terminal, the "Cube Houses," the Erasmus Bridge, the kitchen of NAI's Sonneveld House, a multiseat bicycle outside Studio Hergrebruik, and a billboard sponsored by the letter "F."
Much of Rotterdam's city center was destroyed by German bombs in 1940. Some older buildings were salvaged or rebuilt after World War II, but for the most part, city planners looked toward the future instead trying to replicate the past. In the intervening decades, Rotterdam has evolved into a hotbed of modern architecture, where skyscrapers, low-rise housing, antique harbors filled with old boats, and surviving prewar neighborhoods have coalesced into a melting pot of urban design.
The most famous examples of Rotterdam architecture are the Kubuswoningen or "Cube Houses," which look as novel today as they did when they were built in the 1980s. (You can visit a "Show Cube" to see what it's like to live in a townhouse with tilted walls and windows.) Next door are the Central Library, also from the 1980s, and the Blaaktoren (nicknamed the "Pencil Tower) by Piet Blom, the architect who designed the Cube Houses.
The Eramusbrug, or Erasmus Bridge, spans the Nieuwe Maas River from the city center to Wilhelminaplein (next to the Rotterdam Cruise Terminal). It was built in 1996 and has a drawbridge section for large ships.
Rotterdam has dozens of other buildings and structures that are worth admiring--or not, depending on your tastes. In 2007, Rotterdam celebrated its role as a "City of Architecture" with a program titled Sites & Stories: Rotterdam in 40 Buildings. Ask for a printed map/guide at any Rotterdam tourist information office, or download a PDF version from the Web. An MP3 audio tour is also available for download.
Allow time to visit the Netherlands Architecture Institute, a large three-story exhibit hall and archive that has changing exhibitions about architecture and urban design in Rotterdam and the Netherlands.
Next door, you can use your NAI ticket to visit Sonneveld House, a "hypermodern house" from the 1930s with many innovations (such as hidden hi-fi speakers) that were considered state-of-the-art at the time. (Borrow an English-language audioguide at the Sonneveld House's ticket desk.)
The City of Rotterdam's Informatiecentrum, or Information Center, has many photos, models, and exhibits about Rotterdam architecture and urban-development projects. Admission is free, and the building is easy to find: It's in the shopping district at Coolsingel 197, near the C&A department store.
Finally, if you'd like a tour of Rotterdam's architectural points of interest on foot, by bike, or in a bus, contact Rotterdam ArchiGuides to see what individual and group programs are available at the time of your visit.
We'll talk about art museums on our Rotterdam Museums page, but there's more to the Rotterdam art scene than museums and galleries. As you walk around Rotterdam, you'll see many different examples of "everyday art," such as the city maintenance trailer at the top of the page, the multiseat bicycle in the inset photo at right, or trompe l'oeil paintings on utility boxes.
Art Rotterdam, which bills itself as "The International Art Fair of the Netherlands," takes place each February in the Rotterdam Cruise Terminal and features work from scores of galleries in Europe, the United States, and China. The juried competition's winner receives a €10.000 euro Illy Prize.
To learn more about smaller galleries, art projects, and other "spaces, platforms, or creative zones," visit the Fucking Good Art Web site. The site includes a downloadable Rotterdam art map in Adobe PDF format.
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