Rotterdam


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Europe » Netherlands » South Holland » Rotterdam
April 19th 2019
Published: April 19th 2019
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First, let me fix a photo, the one of a work by Hockney that was so inspired by Van Gogh. It showed up funny on the blog. Also, Fran pointed out that the group of dancers in the pub on the boat were probably in their 40s, not 60s. More on them later.

Yesterday, I wrote about the tulips and the visit to Keukenhof, and now, back at the ship, having finished our outstanding dinner at Jansz, we had our first evening and overnight traveling. We were moving along through a canal at a moderate speed, guessing 15 knots. We felt nothing; heard nothing; no engine or generator noise, even when another ship or barge passed by making a wake. If you didn’t know you were on a boat you wouldn’t know you were on a boat. We were headed to Rotterdam, a place I hadn’t been to since, no kidding, 1968, on a student tour.

In the morning we were tied up in Rotterdam. By we I meant the boat, not Fran and me. But you probably knew that. We were berthed between two suspension bridges linking the main part of the city to a densely developed island. To the stern was the Erasmus Bridge. It is a famous landmark, a symbol of Rotterdam and for good reason. I’ve always loved suspension bridges for both the simple, yet in many ways complex engineering and for their sheer beauty. This one has a lot of both. It was a good start for what we were excited about on our visit to Rotterdam, architecture. We had signed up for a half-day architectural tour and our bus left at 9 AM.

Guides. These people do this for a living, day in, day out. I wish they would just guide; show us sights, give us some insight, and let us look and experience. But nooooooooo. That's not what most of them do. They tell us what our eyes are supposed to see, tell us the right way to see things, as if we didn’t want to or didn't have the capacity to use our own senses. Yes, sometimes they give us some insight, sometimes really well, but in my experience, most guides just feel they have to constantly drone on about everything and anything. Why do I have to listen to the guide tell me that the building we are looking at has unusual red coloring? Why do I have to know that his children really like McDonald's and KFC? Do I really care what his wife likes to make guacamole for dinner? Do I even care that he doesn't like a particular building, or worse, a piece of art. Arrrrhhhhhhhh! My friends from Miami, you know who you are, you would have fired this guide within ten minutes. Anyway, suck it up David. We did get to see many examples of interesting architecture that we probably would have missed without the bus and the guide.

Why such great architecture? Part of it is that the center of Rotterdam was flattened by German bombs early in World War II. During the 50s, 60s and 70s, Rotterdam’s port business flourished and there was a lot of rebuilding, but not in the old style. The government and people of Rotterdam decided to develop a new modern city plan in order to distinguish itself in Europe. They decided to use great architecture as its foundation. It has paid off. Today, Rotterdam is known for its architecture and this continues even today with each new large building competing for architectural prominence with the “classic” examples from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Of course, there were mistakes made. A city (or a developer) can’t expect to be brave and not make mistakes. One example that I saw, one that is considered important by historical standards but dumb to me, are the cube houses of Rotterdam. These 1,000 square foot houses were built in a jumble on top of columns, much like tree houses on top of tree trunks. I’ve attached a picture. The architect won a competition from the city to design these houses at the key spot overlooking the harbor. So what did I see different from what the guide told me to see? I’m not going to say. It’s up to you to judge. But what you can’t easily see is that the apartments have no right angles, and funny ceiling heights. All in all, they are barely livable. Is it enough that they are radical? Meanwhile the tour guide kept blabbing. Rather than pull my hair out, Fran and I split and went to the market hall. Nice building. Rotterdam is a gem of a city; brave in its acceptance of new architectural ideas, some of them very simple. I would so love to see our community of developers find inspiration and ideas from Rotterdam.

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