Saturday, March 31, 2007

Rotterdam: Blaak Station

One of the most famous areas in Rotterdam, Blaak is the place where the Willem de Kooning Kunstacademie is located, as well as the Public library and the impressive Blaak train/metro station (1993), of which the dome you can see in the middle is the only visible part. Blaak means "still water" in a Dutch dialect. the station was designed by architect Harry Reijnders of Movares. The dome has a diameter of 35m and the bow above it has an over spanning of 62.5m. When I took the photograph, I was standing at the area reserved for the bi-weekly market.
Right behind it, way on the left, are the famous Kubuswoningen, the cube houses, built in 1984 by Piet Blom.

Rotterdam: Steigerkerk

Several Roman Catholic churches were destroyed during the bombing of 1940. After the war only one new church was built, the Steigerkerk. This church was designed by architect Chris Knol and built in 1959-1960 on the location of one of the destroyed churches. It was so impressive in the night, that I had to photograph it. The lighting of the church is by Atelier Lek.

Rotterdam: De Bijenkorf

De Bijenkorf is a department store, designed by Marcel Breuer (the great Bauhaus architect) with an exterior that looks like its name, a beehive. Situated at the heart of the market in Rotterdam, it is an upscale store. In front of the store, you can see Naum Gabo's sculpture Constructie.
The small building you see on the right, with the green neon sign, is a lovely Italian restaurant, where I had a great dinner. Impeccable service and a nice place to watch people walking about, as it is situated on the crossroads of the two most commercial streets in Rotterdamn, right on the Koopgoot (buying ditch), a commercial pedestrian street that goes underground.

Rotterdam: Woontorens Boompjes= Clipper, Schoener en Galjoen

A triplet of towers, build in 1989. Each has a name of its own, tribute to the Dutch ships (Clipper, Schoenen & Galjoen are all types of ship) sailing the world in the era of their trade empire. Designed by Klunder Architecten, they are situated near the Maas river. I love the effect of the different colored lighting.

Rotterdam: Hoge Heren

Across the street from the Golden Tulip Hotel near the Erasmus Bridge, a twin tower residential building, 102m high, it was completed in 2000. 34 floors, it has a garage at the base. I love the green lights of the garage, it offsets the anthracite color of the buildings so nicely. The architect is Wiel Arets.
The blocks house 210 high-quality apartments of which 51 are fully or semi-furnished serviced apartments. The costs for the apartments per night are comparable to hotel accommodation. However, instead of 30 m2 of impersonal space, the occupants have an average of 120 m2 of living space at their disposal. And of course a view to the let me see, where does one find which companies have personnel living here?

Rotterdam: Erasmus Brug, Toren Op Zuid, Montevideo

Yes, you are reading correctly, Montevideo (hence the huge M on top)!!! The building on the far right is called that, even though Uruguay is far away from here. In the old days, lots of warehouses were situated here, one of them called Montevideo, as the trade with South America was important. Designed by Francine Houben of Mecanoo Architecten, it is the 3rd tallest skyscraper and tallest residential tower of Rotterdam: The building is 140m/458f (with the M on top the height is even 152m/500f), has 43 stories and was completed in 2005. The M isn't included in the official height, since it's not part of the architectural design, it was added later. If it were to be counted, it would make it the tallest building of The Netherlands.

If you enlarge the picture, you can barely see on the very far right, a small building with a greenish tower on top, right behind Montevideo. That used to be the headquarters of the Holland-America Line. Since 1993, this building is occupied by Hotel New York and is one of the biggest attractions of the city as it is one of the few old buildings left within Rotterdam.

On to the building on the left. Much more architecturally interesting than Montevideo, this is the Toren op Zuid (Tower on South). Designed by Renzo Piano, built for KPN, the Dutch Telecommunications Company, it was named so because it is situated on the south bank of the river Maas. It has 23 floors and it is 96m high. Construction was completed in 2000. The cantilevered effect (purely aesthetical) is fascinating, it seems as if the building is actually supported by that pillar. Actually, that side of the building can be transofrmed into a huge screen, the biggest in Europe at 80X40m. You can see it playing here if you enlarge the photo.

On the far left, the famous Erasmus Bridge. It is a cable stayed bridge across the river Maas, designed by Ben Van Berkel and built in 1996. The 808 metre long bridge has a 139 metre-high asymmetrical pylon, earning the bridge its nickname of "The Swan". he southern span of the bridge has a 89 metre long bascule bridge for ships that cannot pass under the bridge. The bascule bridge is the largest and heaviest in West Europe and has the largest panel of its type in the world. Shortly after the bridge opened to traffic in October 1996, it was discovered that it would swing under particularly strong wind conditions. To reduce the swing, stronger shock dampeners were installed. I did not feel anything that day and it was too windy, but I only got a third of the way across - I could hardly walk on the bridge because of the gusts of wind and I did not have enough time.

Rotterdam: Golden Tulip Hotel

Right next to the Erasmus bridge, on the river Maas, is this hotel. I love the shape of the building. It seems to try and reach the river over the road. It has a rooftop bar, so the view from up there must be amazing. It was so windy that day I almost got carried away by the wind. The day before they had cancelled all open-air markets and restricted bicycle traffic due to gale force winds. After that weekend, Cyril struck Europe... It is 49m tall with 15 floors. Designed by Mas Architectuur.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rotterdam: NAI - the Netherlands Architecture Institute

This was one of the best moments in the Netherlands trip: the visit to NAI. The National Architecture Institute has one of the largest architecture collections in the world; eighteen kilometres of shelves containing drawings, sketches, models, photographs, books, journals and other materials.
The NAI is entrusted with the safekeeping and management of these archives and collections and with making them accessible to the public. Virtually every prominent Dutch architect since 1800 is represented in the archives, which include the personal archives of such famous architects as Dudok, Cuypers, Berlage and De Klerk.
The NAI's library is open to the public and contains over 35,000 books on architecture and related disciplines, plus an extensive range of Dutch and international architectural journals.
Researchers, students, and anyone else interested may consult publications and archives in the reading room.

The NAI moved into its current premises in 1993. The striking building is situated at the edge of the Museumpark in the center of Rotterdam and was designed by Jo Coenen. As you approach the building from the outside, you are at first impressed by the water surrounding the building - of course such an establishment could not have a building on a simple dry patch of land in Holland!
You enter by passing a bridge over the water expanse. On one side you see an abstract sculpture in the water:

I felt that the building was gently embracing me inside it when entering. The interior is as unusual as the exterior - lots of intense color, modern design and friendly personnel. All this makes for a lovely, unforgettable experience!
This is the entrance area viewed from the balcony above it:

The areas of the temporary exhibitions were closed due to the process of the installation of the next show, which made it impossible for me to visit them. I did not have the time to do that anyway, so I only had the chance to see the permanent exhibition and the museum store-so many books!
This is the corridor towards the permanent exhibitions:

And this is the room with the projection screens:

The building generated lots of reactions when it was finished (18 months late from schedule). There was criticism of the design and the final outcome regarding the original plans, some even said the Brutalist style construction reminded them of a garage. The architect though had to endure a constant war from the client (the Dutch state) regarding the budget: there were many cuts. I myself loved the building and think it serves its purpose very well and looks as it should: modern, light and easy to navigate. It also is very welcoming to the visitor, which for me is a huge advantage.
What you see on the bottom photograph on the right hand side is the archive wing.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Rotterdam-strange art by the canals

The Rotterdam canals are not like Amsterdam's - or even Utrecht's. They look more like elongated lakes, as they are not interconnected, and they have grass sloping down to the water. On these grass banks, various works of contemporary art are placed - these look like play-doh kid stuff.

Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen

This is the first view one has of the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, when going down the road straight from the railroad station.
The main museum building was built in 1936 by the architect Van der Steur. Now, a new arrangement has been made (unfortunately the opening was a week after I visited, with many spaces closed) and the collections have been re-arranged in the exhibition areas. "From January 20, 2007 onward the museum will bring its collection into the limelight in a new, chronological and stimulating way. Because of the new addition and the building of the Museumpark parking garage the museum was limited in its possibilities during the past years, with the result that the permanent collection could be shown only partially and in a fragmented way. From January 20, 2007 onward the public can renew its acquaintance with many highlights of old painting and sculpture, drawings and prints, modern and contemporary art, arts and crafts and design." (from the museum press release). The visitor can choose on the sidewalk outside the museum what he wants to see: the collection, or a temporary exhibition. If he chooses the collection, he enters through the original entrance in the bottom of the tower, which once gave access to the museum. Only through this door can the public experience the temple-like museum architecture as architect J. van der Steur originally intended it. After January 20 the visitors of the many exhibitions the museum will once again organize in 2007, will use the familiar entrance in the courtyard. This is the one I entered the museum from.
The museum is a lovely building with many different periods of art represented in the collections. They have a Dali collection (around 9 pieces, some of them I had never seen even in books). Definitely worth a visit.

This is the backside of the museum, you can see the beautiful cafe and the garden. Unfortunately I had no time to sit there...