Standing in Rotterdam’s main shopping district is a rather interesting Christmas centre-piece. It’s a large, bronze statue of Santa Claus holding a festive bell in one hand and an unusual suggestion for a stocking-filler in the other.
Santa with Butt Plug (yes, that’s what it’s called and that’s what it is) by Paul McCarthy (2011). It would appear this particular butt plug is for life and not just for Christmas, as this statue is a permanent feature at the junction between Westersingel and Binnenwegplein
Rotterdam is like a huge, public art gallery where anything (evidently) goes. As soon as one steps out of the fittingly modern Centraal Station, one doesn’t have to go far to come across a work of art. The canal banks of Westersingel are lined with modern and postmodern sculptures from Picasso and Rodin, to Giuseppe Penone and Franz West. There is so much art on the streets of this Dutch city, it leaves one wondering whether a set of traffic lights along Mauritsweg is just a set of traffic lights, or a potential entry for next year’s Turner Prize.
Thoroughly modern metro: the stunning Rotterdam Centraal station
The clock and station-front lettering are originally from the 1957 station building that previously stood here until 2007
Qwertz by Franz West (2001), locally known as the Sausages. On the east bank of Westersingel canal
These crows clearly know what is art and where the real worms are (maybe they are culture vultures in disguise)
Anita by David Bade (2001), close to Eendrachtsplein metro station. The target part of the piece is in the middle of the road leading some motorists to mistake it for a roundabout
Cascade by Atelier Van Lieshout (2010), also known as The Dripper. On the corner of Churchillplein
Elevazione by Giuseppe Penone (2011), along Westersingel. Tree-mendous
Ode to Marten Toonder: a monument dedicated to the celebrated Rotterdam cartoonist. Close to Blaak metro station
Such pieces of street art may sit uncomfortably amongst more traditional architectural surroundings, but Rotterdam is aesthetically a very modern city. It was bombed relentlessly by the Nazis in the Second World War, and as a result one will be pushed to find a structure in the centre today built before the 1940s. Rotterdam not only rebuilt itself after the war but allowed itself to experiment and push the boundaries of architecture, creating a city full of the most striking, innovative and iconic ‘Marmite’ buildings (one either loves them or hates them) to be found in Europe. Some of the architecture is as controversial as the street art.
The elegant Art Nouveau Witte Huis (left) in Oude Haven. Built in 1898, the ‘White House’ is a rare Rotterdam survivor of the Second World War and is now a National Heritage site
At just over 40 metres high, the Witte Huis was the first high-rise building in Europe. It is now dwarfed by the late-twentieth century 100-metre-plus skyscrapers built nearby
Another rare survivor of the war, the old Holland AmericaLine offices located at the end of the Wilhelmina pier. This was once the last European building most Dutch emigrants set foot in before boarding a ship bound for a new life in America. Ironically, it is now a luxury hotel where most Americans come to stay when visiting the home of their Dutch ancestors
Now known as the Hotel New York, it too is a National Heritage Site, but unlike the Witte Huis, it seems to sit more awkwardly between the huge modern skyscrapers built around it. Jeff Wall’s Lost Luggage Depot monument seems to be the only thing in the area in keeping with the building
Lost Luggage Depot (2001), remembering the many one-way journeys made from this port
The top-heavy KPN Telecom Headquarters (left) propped up by a pole, designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, and De Rotterdam (right) the largest building in the city to date, designed by Rem Koolhaas
Maastoren, the tallest – and slickest – office building in the city
The very distinct Overblaak Development by Piet Blom
The Cube Houses of the Overblaak Development found in the neighbourhood of Blaak, were designed to leave ample space for public use underneath the lofty private living quarters. So, the residents inside the Cube House are literally living over Blaak, hence the name of the development
Directly opposite the Overblaak Development is the stunning market hall.
The beautiful horseshoe shaped Blaak Market Hall, built in 2014
The building is made up of residential and office units, with the indoor market space underneath
It’s even more stunning when lit up at night
Blaak Market shopping, only this kind is all above board and not a spiv in sight
The rather healthy looking ceiling of the Blaak Market Hall designed by Arno Coenen. The residential and office stairways inside the horseshoe structure have windows looking into the hall
Amongst the fruit and veg motif is an image of the Sint Laurenskerk, a medieval church building and survivor of the Nazi bombings, found just around the corner from the hall
Arguably not as stunning – but it certainly left me stunned (as seen in the following short film) – is the Rotterdam Euromast: a concrete observation tower built in 1960 to mark the city’s hosting of an international flower exhibition in that year.
A far less vomit-inducing structure (unless one suffers from gephyrophobia) and the most iconic structure in Rotterdam is the elegant Erasmus Bridge.
Rotterdam’s Erasmus Bridge as seen from Cafe Rotterdam. The bridge is fondly nicknamed The Swan…
…although it looks more like a viper ready to pounce in this shot
Just like most buildings in Rotterdam, the Erasmus Bridge looks even more stunning when lit up at night.
Northern lights or light pollution? The Erasmus Bridge lighting up the Rotterdam night sky
Rotterdam is a fascinating city to explore, and most of its architectural and artistic delights can be reached by foot from Centraal station. The Euromast is found in Het Park, but if this appears to be too far of a walk to make, then the number 8 tram towards Spangen from Centraal station stops a few hundred metres from the observation tower (alight at the helpfully named ‘Euromast’ stop)
Sculpture International Rotterdam manages the city’s collection of public art and sculpture. Its fascinating website here includes maps, in-depth profiles of the artists and (helpful) interpretations of the pieces.
Bridges old and new: the Erasmus Bridge seen between the lifting towers of De Hef Bridge, now a Defunct bridge (hawh hawh!)
Celebrating Rotterdam’s rich naval history at the free and fascinating outdoor Haven Museum…
… and more ‘Walk on By’ than ‘Walk of Fame’ along Rotterdam’s bizarre answer to Hollywood Boulevard
The streets are alive with the sight of street art: Salzburg’s fabulous Walk of Modern Art… and it’s free!