Last week the City of Rotterdam proudly presented its newest plans to pour 223 million Euros into greening seven important places in the city. Among them are Schouwburgplein, the iconic place designed by West8 at the pinnacle of what became known as ‘Superdutch’ in the 1990’s and Hofplein, the iconic, yet not very attractive roundabout with a fountain where Rotterdammers celebrate championships of their local football club Feyenoord. Less known but also important places are the newly emerging districts in the former harbour areas and an abandoned railway embankment.
The plans were announced with big fanfare in good Rotterdam tradition.
But looking at the visuals and the elaborated animations that started flooding the media, I had some strange feeling. I did not find it exciting at all. Am I the only one that finds this not that exciting?
All I saw were raised planting beds and huge trees to blend out the city context as much as possible. Any form of transport – including public transport and cycling carefully edited not to interfere with the image and street life reduced to a carefully crafted mix of ethnic and social groups in the renderings. It looks a bit like an attempt to also green wash a city at all cost – a city that feels that it’s not green enough.
I am not against green in the city – to be clear. I just think the plans shown now are not what Rotterdam is about. The drive of Rotterdam stems from embracing modernism not only as a stylistic concept or an economic model but also as an avant-garde attitude. Wederopbouw, Lijnbaan, Schouwburgplein, Waterplein… Are manifestations of that and the city takes pride in them while at the same time complaining about them and just living with the fact that avant-garde never can be perfect.
In recent years this has been replaced by some kind of event architecture – something that wants to attract for the sake of attracting – showmanship with little else. I think Rotterdam could do more and be more ambitious – embracing the avant-garde, the conceptual again and avoiding disappearing into the generic that turns it into what any other city extension all over Europe and beyond looks like.
By Markus Appenzeller.