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Rotterdam Architecture and Art

From: Rotterdam Travel Guide

Westersingel - trailer with mural

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."


Housing near WilhelminapleinMuch 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.

Show Cube interiorThe 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.)

Markthal, RotterdamNext 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 eye-popping Markthal or Market Hall (see inset photo), which opened in 2014, is especially popular with shoppers, tourists, and visiting urbanists.

Erasmus BridgeThe 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.

Allow time to visit Het Nieuwe Institut at Museumpark 25. The architectural institute and museum also operates 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.)

City of Rotterdam Information CentreThe 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 Coolsingel shopping district.

Finally, if you'd like a tour of Rotterdam's architectural points of interest on foot, by bike, or in a bus, check UrbanGuides to see what programs are available at the time of your visit.


multiseat bicycle artWe'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.

Next page: Sightseeing, attractions

Rotterdam travel guide:
Architecture, art
Sightseeing, attractions
Tours, excursions
Hotels, hostels
Restaurants, cafés
Music, festivals
Cruise terminal
Tourist information

2nd inset photo: Lya Cattell.