Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Chimneys and cranes bring the raw space of the harbor to the heart of the city
|Fig.1||The image and atmosphere of the harbour landscape have been studied and translated into the square. (Image: bln.nl)|
|Fig.2||The intention is strong: not a sweet and green square, but a celebration of the raw harbour. (Image: West8)|
|Fig.3||The city dweller, according to Geuze, no longer had to be shielded from the big, evil city by charming and green streets and squares. The city dweller is an active and entrepreneurial person who uses the city as a playground. (Image: West8)|
|Fig.4||Large, movable lamps, referencing harbour cranes, put visitors to the square in the spotlight. The ventilation towers of the parking garage are reminiscent of the chimneys in the Botlek area. (Image: West8)|
Ever since the Middle Ages the port and city have been closely connected in Rotterdam. Ships docked in the middle of the city. Due to the numerous port expansions, the port came to be increasingly located outside the city. The physical and mental relationship with the city faded.
When the Schouwburgplein in Rotterdam had to be redesigned as part of a large-scale center renovation in the early 1990s, restoring that relationship was an important starting point. The Schouwburgplein was designated as a place of culture and entertainment. An urban square had to be built here - not a water feature and a bench, but an urban stage, with the liveliness of the Schouwburg, the Lijnbaan, a new cinema and cafés.
The square design of West 8 is not a copy of the port, let alone a literal citation of port elements. The image and atmosphere of the harbor have been studied and translated into the square. The intention is strong: not a sweet and green square, but a celebration of the raw harbor. The city dweller is not presented with an illusion, and certainly not a green paradise. The city dweller gets a landscape that makes Rotterdam Rotterdam.
In 1993, founder of West 8 Adriaan Geuze unfolded his vision of the city dweller in the essay Accelerating Darwin. The city dweller, according to Geuze, no longer had to be shielded from the big, evil city by charming and green streets and squares. Instead the city dweller is an active and undertaking person who uses the city as a playground.
Geuze designed the Schouwburgplein as such a playground. The emptiness of the square is a quality - and therefore does not have to be filled or made cozy. A lightweight metal structure has been placed over the underground parking garage. By raising the floor 35 centimeters, the square functions as a stage. Large, movable lamps, referring to harbor cranes, put square visitors in the spotlight. The ventilation towers of the parking garage are reminiscent of the chimneys in the Botlek area. The reference of the port, or the reputation of Rotterdam as a port and industrial city, is reflected in the use of materials: a floor made of wood and steel.
The design faced a lot of criticism. It would be too hard, too harsh, too smooth, too empty. West 8 made some adjustments in 2010. Among other things, "sailor tattoos" have been applied to the renewed epoxy floor.