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Rotterdam, city on the river (Aeroview)

Global Forces: Rotterdam Waterfront (The Netherlands)

Rotterdam Waterfront: in search of new perspectives
'From world port city to a fully connected European city as part of the developing Delta Metropolis'. That is in a nutshell the goal of the transformation of Rotterdam and its waterfront. The year of 2001, in which Rotterdam is Cultural Capital of Europe, is being used to pursue this goal. In order to generate ideas and inspiration, residents and users of the waterfront as well as developers are being consulted; London, Baltimore, Hamburg and Barcelona have also been invited to supply ideas (figure 1).

Cultural dimension
The Rotterdam Waterfront project contains a number of dimensions by which the relationship with the theme of the congress can be illustrated, in the first place the cultural dimension. How can the waterfront in the centre of the city, where there is a 'working port' (the traditional soul of Rotterdam) acquire a new relevance in the urban situation? The project has everything to do with a yearning for a new civic pride. The Rotterdammer wants to be able to feel at home again. At some locations this is very possible and the interaction between city and river has been restored. But at other places the city is hidden literally behind the dyke and the river is virtually 'dead'. The task is to identify the new relevance and on that basis to work towards a distinctive identity that satisfies the yearning once again.

Dimension of use
Then there is the dimension of use. The popularity of living and working in offices by the river is now rather evident. It is an area with fantastic panoramic views that no other Dutch city can match. Culture and leisure and entertainment as a specific expression of urban living are another story. There is not so much to do or see. The task is to give the city an opportunity as a centre of urban culture, leisure and entertainment, also on the waterfront.
This dimension relates directly to one of the four themes of the Biennial: Global Forces. The hypothesis to be tested in the context of this task is that urban culture, leisure and entertainment (in addition to housing and employment) can determine the new relevance of the waterfront. An important question is to what extent the waterfront of the city can and must develop in a specific/local or generic/global way.
Linked to this is the question to how the relationship between the economy and leisure time and the daily activities of the city on the river could develop. Can the waterfront develop into a cultural and economic experience of some import? Or is 'ordinary city' the right option, a waterfront with impressive open spaces, maritime activities and a great deal of space for spontaneous informal use? Where is the tension? What is the right mix?

Dimension of urban planning and design
And last but not least there is the dimension of urban planning and design and urban development. Rotterdam has been working for at least 15 years systematically on the reconstruction of its central area. Utilising the dynamics of the market the city is being re-oriented. That is necessary because nothing takes place of its own accord. Orientation across the river, vertically, and on the new networks of the Delta Metropolis. But also oriented on the realisation of special thematic spearhead areas in the fields of culture, museums, shopping, theatre and leisure and entertainment. The task of functional-spatial clustering is also applicable to the waterfront project. In the strategic reorientation of the city on the river the waterfront must be seen as a 'passing place' between the left and right banks of the river Meuse. The new angles, the links, the relationships to adjoining urban districts, the use of water and the harbours and the relevance and design of public space all play a crucial role (figure 2).

The Rotterdam Waterfront project now finds itself at a crucial stage. So many possible options have been reviewed from various angles by various studies. This year the motto is: postpone the decision. Many options are still possible.
1. The 1st City Bridge (Willemsbrug)
This study was carried out by the Dutch property developers MAB and HBG in collaboration with the municipality of Rotterdam (with the collaboration of Krill). The study area covers part of the railway tunnel route and covers the Oudehaven, the Willemsbrug, the Noordereiland and the 'Vrij Entrepot'. Making use of different scenarios a study was carried out into whether and under what conditions coherent development is possible, whereby on this side of the central area too a cross-river structure with associated programmes can emerge. A project comparable to the city axis (large-scale, formal, representative, fixed in a complete infrastructure and strong routing), but also complementary in character (small-scale, informal, unusual everyday, regarded as a collage, a series of urban land uses and areas). Commissioned by MAB, students of the Berlage Institute took the generation of concepts and design strategies for the same area a step further.
2. De Boompjes
This study has been carried out jointly by 'VOF De Boompjes' (Multi Development Corporation and Matser Project Development) and the municipality of Rotterdam (with the collaboration of Krill), supported by a number of real estate owners in the Boompjes. In this study the waterfront is viewed as an extension of the city centre on the river. This study also refers to the further development of the two cross-river structures (the city axis and the railway tunnel route) as crucial pre-conditions for the development of the waterfront since in this way the definitive link to the city centre can be forged. The development of the Boompjes is then the next step in relation to the intensification programme of the Oudehaven and Leuvehaven, the extension of the centre on the river. 'An imposing open space' is designated as a crucial project within the 'small' development of the Boompjes (figure 3).
3. Foreign cities
In the context of 'Rotterdam 2001, Cultural Capital of Europe', on the initiative of the municipality of Rotterdam four cities were approached (London, Baltimore, Hamburg and Barcelona) and were invited to develop a vision for the Boompjes, based on their 'own' thematic approach in collaboration with architectural consultancies selected by themselves. This design exhibition 'De Boompjes….Window to the world' is partially sponsored by a number of real estate developers located on the Boompjes.
Hamburg was asked to illustrate the maritime dimension of the Boompjes. In this vision a type of 'critical reconstruction' was introduced by opening the Oudehaven onto the river and by straightening out the historically curved path of the Willemsbrug. In addition small, river-oriented projects on the Boompjes are proposed (figure 4).
London was invited to devote special attention to the cultural dimension. A series of 'groundscrapers' on the Boompjes are proposed, a series of 'cultural' buildings that allow existing buildings semi-public access to the water and also supply conditional land uses along the river (figure 5).
Barcelona was approached to view the Boompjes particularly from the public space perspective. In this vision the Boompjes is mainly an enclosed space fed by the introduction of a vastly improved underlying network of (pedestrian) links (including a new bridge over the river), a limited amount of construction and a water development. The Boompjes manifests itself as a promenade on the river (figure 6).
Baltimore was asked to study the opportunities for the Boompjes as a (tourist) attraction. This city focused on the transformation of the Boompjes into a location for leisure and entertainment. This requires a radical change to the traffic situation and new relationships with the surrounding area but at the same time high quality design of the open space and continued investment (figure 7).
4. Other studies
In addition studies were carried out into the desired use of water and the harbours and public and private players organised themselves into a 'Rotterdam Waterfront Partnership'. The residents of the plan area did the same, all this to generate the bottom-up input into the debate and the development vision to be formulated thereafter. The Euromast and 'Tropicana' are also carrying out studies into the redevelopment of the respective attractions.

There are two backdrops against which the debate about the Rotterdam Waterfront can be placed. One is the scenario of optimum investment in the leisure industry and the other is the realisation of a sustainable development of the city on the water. These scenarios, and everything associated with them, are regarded as building blocks about which at the end of the year a debate will be conducted. The objective is to provide inspiration, to seek a common objective and to find an answer to the question how the enormous wealth of ideas for the Rotterdam Waterfront can converge into a development vision for the coming 15 years.

Development Vision of the Rottedam Waterfront, March 2000 A possible future for the Boompjers The Boompjes according to Hamburg The Boompjes according to London The Boompjes according to Barcelona The Boompjes according to Baltimore