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