Emma Weeden, designer in Mark Clasper’s team at Ryder, discusses a recent trip provided by the practice to the Netherlands, where the team made a base in Rotterdam.
Rotterdam is a city created as many Dutch cities were, through the building of dams to create waterways and developable land. The growth of the city can be attributed to its early function as a port, and is now the largest port in Europe. During the second world war, the city centre was extensively bombed and unfortunately, very few of the original buildings survived. This led to the redevelopment of the city centre from the 1950s onwards, with the city council enforcing an active architecture policy in the 1980s to encourage development. The resulting modern and daring buildings created a completely new skyline for the city.
The city centre was where we started our trip, arriving at Rotterdam Central Station. The grand entrance acts as a gateway to the urban centre for visitors, as you walk towards the city under the rising timber ceiling, emerging into the urban realm surrounded by high rise buildings of steel and glass. The team enjoyed a day in the city centre, taking in buildings by Rem Koolhaas, OMA, Piet Blom and MVDRV, which sparked a lot of comment and debate.
Kop van Zuid - made up of old port developments on the south bank of the river, has been redeveloped in recent years and is united with the city centre by the Erasmus Bridge. The vast area is a mixture of new build and reuse. We spent a day exploring the islands on bikes, taking water taxis between the far flung areas and took in a range of new development, refurbished port buildings and 360 degree views of Rotterdam from the 185m tall Euromast.
The resounding feeling amongst the team was that Rotterdam is not a city afraid of daring and adventurous design, always pushing the boundaries that little bit further.
After two busy days of sightseeing in Rotterdam, the team took a trip out to Utrecht. The city centre was a stark contrast to Rotterdam, traditional and typically Dutch buildings set along canals with cobbled streets and arched bridges. Activity happens at two levels in this city, street level and water level - with cafes and shops operating underground behind the walls of the canals. On the outskirts of the city, there is a clear modernist influence around Gerrit Rietveld's Schroder House, and particularly adventurous design on the university campus.
Before returning home, we stopped in Amsterdam for the afternoon to visit the Borneo Sporenburg development to the east of the city. In this area, the masterplan set out the intention for a new variation on the canal house, with the focus being on individual plots and private realm. The encouraged architectural variation makes for a dynamic streetscape in the sculptural blocks of the docks. The waterfront appears key to the way of life, with many houses opening directly out onto private jetties. The investment in quality of life is evident throughout the whole area. Some of the residents were taking advantage of the sunny weather sitting outside and swimming.
A packed four days left us with a real flavour of the cities in the Netherlands – there is a feeling of moving forward and embracing change. The confidence and experimentation in the architecture was particularly interesting and the whole team returned refreshed and inspired.