[travel] How new buildings should look, observations from a trip to Rotterdam

I usually favor historical places: an old town, an antique church, a vintage stores with items that have passed their golden days. Knowing my preferences, one friend warned me that I would not like Rotterdam–the most non-Dutch city in terms of architecture and ‘feel’. While other Dutch cities are mostly old and relatively small in size, with tall churches and cobbled pathway imbued with the depth of time, Rotterdam is big, new, modern, and is covered with exciting, futuristic, and innovative buildings. Contrary to what my friend expected, I found myself deeply impressed by the city’s vibe, but even more so my the incredible architectural creations in every corner of Rotterdam.

But why is Rotterdam different from other Dutch cities? Perhaps it is well-known that Rotterdam port is the second busiest port in the world (only after Shanghai); being the largest port in Europe, it is also considered a “gateway to Europe.” In 1940, the German army invaded the Netherlands, and after meeting unexpectedly fierce resistance, the Nazis finally manage to force the Dutch army to capitulate in May 1940 by bombing Rotterdam, as well as by threatening to bomb other cities. The heart of the city was almost completely destroyed by the German Luftwaffe. During the war, Rotterdam was bombed several more times. The Rotterdam City council decided not to rebuild the lost buildings, but took the chance to recreate an entirely new city.

The church Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk is in fact the only remnant from the medieval Rotterdam:

I visited Rotterdam on my way back from Delft (to get to Utrecht from Delft I chose the route where I could change trains in Rotterdam) and it was a nice experience to see and feel two very different cities. Everything in Delft was small, lovely and quite uniform, but in Rotterdam, each building was tall, massive, and unique. The Rotterdam station was like a scene taken from a futuristic movie:

Many weird but eye-catching creations:


And even more cooler buildings:

An apartment complex that doesn’t look like any I have ever seen:

Guess what this is? A plumbing company?

Nope…. it is a library!

One of Rotterdam’s most interesting sites: the Cubic Houses.

These houses, again, are merely apartments….

But I do wonder how it feels to live in such an ultra cool apartment like that :P

Located in the city center, the Destroyed City statue is that of a man without a heart, resembling the tragic loss of the heart of the old Rotterdam under the bombs in WWII:

Besides cool houses, boats/ships are what you can most easily find in Rotterdam:

From the Destroyed City I could easily find my way to the Erasmus Bridge by walking past these sky scrapers:

A foggy view of the Erasmus Brigde

Too bad the heavy fog prevented me from making out the shape of this iconic bridge, which is nicknamed “The Swan.”

View from the bridge:

On my way back to the station I walked past a few more unique buildings:

Pauluskerk, aka. Church of St. Paul!!!

Rotterdam is definitely an interesting city and well worth a visit for those who are used to the quiet, peaceful, village-like feeling of other older Dutch cities. It is also a short train ride (40 minutes) from Amsterdam and Utrecht, and is merely 15 minutes from the historical town of Delft. I did Delft and Rotterdam in 5 hours and got to see some major attractions of the 2 cities just by walking, so a day trip to these 2 destinations is totally worth consideration if you are contemplating a quick getaway from Amsterdam.


2 thoughts on “[travel] How new buildings should look, observations from a trip to Rotterdam

  1. I totally agree with you! I’ve visited Rotterdam couple of years ago and I loved it, even thought, like you, I prefer ‘old’ places:) This is such a bold and vibrant city ad its architecture its unique, unlike other modern buildings through the world.

    • Bold and vibrant are the right description :D and yes this city is so unique!
      I love the description of Rotterdam from the recent article on theguardian “If you put the last 50 years of architecture in a blender, and spat it out in building-sized chunks across the skyline, you would probably end up with something that looked a bit like Rotterdam. Walking the streets of the Netherlands’ second-largest city is like trawling a back catalogue of architects’ bold dreams and daring attempts.”

      How a very exciting city :D

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