Monday, December 29, 2014

Sources of inspiration: Rotterdam // a day on a bike // Top 10 little gems and modern architecture

In 2014 the city of Rotterdam made the top 10 in the list of 52 Places to go to in 2014 according to the New York Times. And I would have to agree on that one. Rotterdam is a city worth to explore. When I was a student I lived in the old Northern part of this city and in 10 years a lot has changed. I can still miss being there to witness it all.

My first introduction to a creative future was in Rotterdam. A place where I could lose myself, things were happening. When I moved from a typical Dutch city with canals and old architecture to this very modern place for my studies I felt home instantly. Everything was diverse. People, food, architecture, art. It still to this day is one of my favorite cities to find a boost of inspiration. I would just get my bike and camera and my little Bill Cunningham comes out.

Rotterdam has a very complex history. The beautiful old city was bombed in 1940 and had to be rebuilt from scratch. Only a few old buildings were left after the city stopped burning. Imagine the possibilities if you have an entire downtown city as your canvas as an architecture! All though a lot of places had to be built efficiently and cheap to house people as soon as possible, nowadays the city center is a place in which you can see the old and the new, built around water, a new balance. And where ever you go the city never feels like a busy crowded place. The streets are broad and open and there is something to see, something to explore around every corner. They successfully created a city for people, to live in, to be in.

This week I spent Christmas on a bike, cycling through the city. I love photography but never seem to have enough time to actually go out and capture those moments through my Nikon lens anymore. So on a day where everyone would stay in to eat and celebrate I decided to hop on my bike again. I have made a list of interesting places, architecture and historical sights. My personal favorites. If you get the chance to visit this city look beyond the new modern architecture. Get to know the less obvious little gems.

1 // Onderzeebootloods
This submarine pilot is part of the immense port of Rotterdam. This old historical sight is now a place where history and culture come together. In 2010 Museum Boijmans van Beuningen started a collaboration with the city port (RDM) and ever since they have held art exhibits during the summer. In 2013 the port decided to renovate the building and it now is a place where musical and theater performances, fairs and short exhibits are held. You can reach this place over water with the Aqualine ferry that stops under the Erasmus bridge. If you want to see the place, check out what's happening.

2 // De Hef
This industrial bridge, officially named Koningshaven bridge, was built in 1878 and was part of the railway connection to the Southern part of Holland. The construction of the bridge was not a very practical and well thought out one. Since the bridge is a part of the city Port you can imagine there was a lot of water traffic back then. The bridge was not built high enough, modern, bigger ships could not reach the other side without getting stuck so after a serious accident in 1918 the port decided to turn the middle part into a lift (hef). The metal construction over the Maas river still is a reminder of the old city infrastructure and is now part of it's skyline. Every time I pass this bridge it reminds me of how much the city has changed over the years.

3 // Markthal
The new market building is Rotterdams most recently finished architectural highlight. The building has a central hall with a food market, shops, bistro's and restaurants. The Markthal is Holland's first indoor market. I am not a big fan of the hype and this place is a little too trendy for me to actually do my food shopping, all organic, farmer's market style, no plain banana's or Rotterdam spirit here, but well, as an artist myself I do love the architecture and the overwhelmingly gorgeous art on the roof. It sure is worth a little peek.

4 // Streetart
Rotterdam is a city where everything is constantly changing. Housing conditions definitely have improved over the years but there are still some area's in the city that will have to wait their turn. Social projects pop up in problem area's. Little urban gardening, sport initiatives. Small home made markets bring people from other places into a neighborhood they would have never visit. But improvements in a district also means empty homes and squatted houses. A great atmosphere for street art to blossom. Entire apartment blocks get painted in one color, remember the blue houses on Beukelswijk, or Hofboogjes? It doesn't matter what happens to there buildings, until they are just waiting to be torn down they serve as a blanc canvas for street artists. Making the city a colorful open air museum.

(Photo source unknown)

5 // Hotel New York
Back in the day while I was living in Rotterdam, this place was my regular stop for a sunday coffee. Hotel new York was opened in 1993 and in 1996 when the Erasmus Bridge was finally connecting the city center with Wilhelmina Pier it started to be a popular place among the people of Rotterdam. When you visit Rotterdam during summer the walk from the city center to this part of town is definitely worth the effort. But you can also take a water taxi from the other side of the Maas. The Hotel has a great menu and during spring and summer you can have a drink on the terrace and enjoy the river view.

Hotel New York used to house the Holland America Lines headquarters. The near Cruise Terminal is part of that international history. The Cruise Terminal is now a place to celebrate and great NYE parties are held there. A great place to celebrate the new year. From here you have a spectacular view over the city and the Erasmus bridge fire works show. This area of Rotterdam is a mix of modern Architecture and old industrial buildings. From this pier you can watch the sunset and see the city skyline light up. If you are in need of a romantic getaway this is the place.

6 // De Maas
The water is a great part of the city. The water forms a break from busy roads and heavy industry. I love to sit down by the water and feel the breezy during a hot summer day but you can also travel from one neighborhood to another over water by ferry. There are numerous boat restaurants that will give you a tour while you are eating and you can enjoy a quick water taxi ride from the park at the Euromast to Hotel new York. The river and the connection to the rest of the waterways of Europe is why this city is the city it now is. A melting pot of different cultures with a strong steady economy. So go see Rotterdam from the water.

7 // Laurenskerk
This church is the only building dating back to the middle ages and was one of few remains after the bombing of the old city of Rotterdam. Because little was left of the old city this places seems a bit odd, surrounded by new modern architecture and close to the cubic houses. Every old Dutch city structure has a central church with a market surrounded by old canal houses and victorian architecture. In Rotterdam the only piece left of this original old part of town was this church. It now is a great place to enjoy a classical music performance and feel part of what once was.

8 // Maastunnel
This tunnel is the oldest you can find in the country. I love the bike and pedestrian area. The steep stairway to enter the tunnels, the tiles, the signing, the colors and the old urban industrial non-nonsense built but also beautiful exterior. The pedestrian and bike tunnel are similar to the one built in Antwerp in 1933 and both have been built in Art Nouveau style.

It feels a bit futuristic if you enter this tunnel. If you go visit this place on an early sunday morning, good chance you will be the only one there. The Tunnel first opened up for traffic during the second world war. The tunnel connects the Northern part of Rotterdam with the Southern part of the city and was a direct connection to the provinces of Brabant and Zeeland. If you want to visit the Southern part of the city you can enter the tunnel from the Park near the Euromast. I can tell you it feels a bit strange cycling through a massive empty tunnel.

9 // Rotterdam Metro
Some of Rotterdam's Metro Stations are definitely worth checking out. Blaak, Central Station and Wilhelmina Pier for instance. You can bring your bike along too so you can just hop on and hop off and find your way back to the city on your bike. I always love to take public transportation while I am visiting a new city. It is a great way to 'feel' where you are. Watch where the eccentric peeps get off on saturday nights or feel the buzz of the city during rush hours.

10 //Oude Haven
All right, if you are driving around on your bike all day you will probably be quite thirsty. The Oude Haven is an old part of the city center that was still intact after the war. It is a little area where you can find numerous pubs and restaurants. If you are coming from the shopping district it might be quite hard to find. It is located near the cubic houses and it is somewhat hidden. Take the stairs from on your right and suddenly you will see a small harbor with old boats and the 'Witte Huis' monument. Sit down, relax and reflect on a great day in the city.

Of course there is so much more to this city. These are just a few high lights. I can go on and on about this place to if you want to read more about Rotterdam keep following the blog.