July 20, 2007

Rotterdam 1 (Netherlands)



Rotterdam is home to Europe's largest port and widely known for being the hometown of famed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. After being almost completely destroyed in 1940 by the German Luftwaffe, Rotterdam began to make a comeback in the 1980's with a new architectural policy that started an innovative and adventurous period of building that continues through today. Our introduction to the city was from a 10th floor hotel room that had a balcony opening to striking views of the port... a rain storm and subdued sunset brought impressive shows of light.

The NAi (Netherlands Architecture Institute) is housed in a strange building with a cage-like exoskeleton designed by Jo Coenen. One of the exhibits was a comprehensive collection of Le Corbusier models, drawings and digital animations including rarities such as the
Phillips Pavillion from the 58' World's Fair in Brussels (collaboration with the greek architect / music composer Yannis Xenakis) and the never-realized Palace of the Soviets.

On the top level of the building was NAi's library, an impressive collection of modern era books on international architecture and design related fields. Access to a lot of out of print monographs (Zumthor, Herzog, etc.)... save some time to browse if you're planning a visit.

In Rotterdam's historic Maastunnel we came across Dune 4.1 by Studio Roosgaarde, an interactive landscape installation commissioned by the 2007 Rotterdam City of Architecture. Comprised of a 40m run of black cable 'reeds' capped with fibre optic lights that responded to the sounds and motions of people walking by. It added some interest to the otherwise desolate run of tunnel... we really liked the interactive aspect of the obscure sounds and somewhat unexpected reactions to movement. (
video here)

There is an interesting vernacular in Rotterdam, the use of vibrant colors with some restraint on many buildings. Bright panels of reddish-orange behind perforated metal panels, a drab building was kept crisp with patches of orange window coverings and operable canvas awnings, etc. (see photos). The Dutch are not afraid to use color on their buildings, and manage to do it in good taste by not going over-the-top. (From what we've seen so far anyway).

One of the most iconic buildings in Rotterdam is the Shipping and Transport College by architects Neutelings & Riedijk. Set in a former harbor overlooking the Maas River, the sculptural form is reminiscent of marine cranes and ships. The silver and blue zig-zag pattern on the facade appeared as stacked shipping containers, and obscured the floor lines which muted the sense of scale. The architects took a contrasting approach to the many light and transparent buildings we've seen in Europe by opting to utilize a solid and heavy-feeling facade made of partially perforated corrugated metal panels. Topping the building was a congress hall inside a periscope-like cantilevered mass faced towards the north sea. At the base, a long rectangular tube held a student cafeteria that countered the lookout above with a long set of windows that overlooked the river. Strangely, not a soul was there when we visited... school must be out.

1 comment:

  1. "In Rotterdam's historic Maastunnel we came across Dune 4.1 by Studio Roosgaarde..."

    This looks awesome! If only for more opportunities for installation-art and sculpture to 'enliven' what would otherwise potentially be 'dead' public spaces. So cool! Any mention of who the sound-designer was for he piece?

    Also: I see no mention here of the exceptional public transportation options there in Rotterdam - you guys makie it to that crazy modernist upsidedown-style monorail?

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