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10 April 2050

The Netherlands.

I have always enjoyed a cup of coffee by the window of my living room in the mornings, looking out at the Rotterdamers passing by.
Not any more.

Since the municipality regenerated my street - more room for pedestrians, more “tiny” parking spaces for new, smaller cars and with lots and lots of street furniture of different colors, shapes and uses – my eyes ach as I stare out.

There used to be a unity in the street. It was flat, true, but it had a character. There was an order and rhythm to the streets of Rotterdam. There was a limited palette of materials and everything came together nicely with fine details. This was Statenweg, with the beautiful Blijdorp station at the end of it, almost as the final touch to the orderly composition of the street. I don’t understand, seriously, why every single piece of furniture now, has to have a different look and form?

Nowadays, you use the plastic everyone recycles, 3d print it and it is the cheapest option. So they make each thing unique. You pay a little for the material, you don’t pay for CO2 tax and municipality goes for such schemes in the low-key projects. Because of that, my street can’t just look normal anymore but like a zoo of street furniture because everything can be uniquely produced!

Anybody going down Binnenrotte would have a similar feeling. Starting with Blaak station, there,was once an openness in the city’s texture here, a celebration of calmness and distance. Now it’s an amalgamation of the kinds of energy generating sport fields for the types of sports nobody else in the world other than Rotterdammers engage in. Combined with a jungle of vegetation, it is your worst nightmare.

They place these energy generating surface materials and turn everywhere in the city into sports fields and of course without the addition of “diversity” story, it would not be complete. Oh no, not in Rotterdam.

“Each species from another ecosystem, each sport from another continent”.
Fine, but what happened to the idea of a calm row of trees in the street?

What happened to some soccer field in a park, which is where it belongs? Why do we need to celebrate diversity on each and every corner?

The whole point of this place was that it was not really “a place”. That was the nice thing about it. Twice a week there would be an open market and other than that, the bars and restaurants on both sides would make some crowd, that’s all. No jungle, no masses playing weird sports on top of each other. Just a place where you could walk in peace.

The moment you think you have had enough of Binnenrotte there is something even more disquieting: Markthal…

When the building was built, I was at the beginning of my career as an architect. Back then I thought that the building was a nice addition to the experience of the city, to be able to find a lot of nice food under a vault shaped ceiling with colorful artwork depicting food. Well, it turned out that the building was also at the beginning of its career…

When they realized that Rotterdamers are not willing to waste money on expensive food just because you could buy it in a cool space, at least not as much as tourists do, they “upgraded” the building to “the finest augmented reality experience of Europe” aiming to attract tourists. They replaced the artwork panels with augmented reality panels that appear different to each individual inside the Markthal, without using glasses or anything. Next level stuff.

The tourists started flowing in, to see the panels doing all kinds of stuff, entertaining them with images related to whatever the heck they are eating.  So they eat strawberries as if they are surrounded by strawberry fields and they eat pizza as if they are in an Italian setting and all that kind of crap.

Boy, they love it.

The building no longer has anything to do with me – or anyone from the city – all I see are tourists inside, mouths full, looking orgasmic. They think they have “seen” the Rotterdammers’ Markthal whereas all we see is it’s ugly, grey ceiling panels, entertaining tourists. That’s what Markthal is for us today.

Once, I worked on a building, on Schiedamsedijk, further down Coolsingel. We built a residential tower, looking at Maas. It has simple aesthetics, well-made details and a serene, normal beauty.

When I think of it, it is life that takes place in it: authentic, everyday life.
It does not aim to entertain anybody and it does not have the need or aim to represent Rotterdam. Perhaps, that’s why it is the most Rotterdammer thing ever.
We need more of these things in our city: simple, nicely made residential towers, representing every day ordinariness.

You think it’s banal? You can always go to Markthal.
I’d rather stay around my tower.

Erik Tersrich


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