There’s a reason the Netherlands is one of Europe’s premier travel destinations. Its elegant, townhouse-lined canals, bike-filled streets, and windmill-dotted landscape give visitors a view of low-country life that’s been preserved for centuries. But there’s one large Dutch city that doesn’t fit this mold at all: Rotterdam.
Once a tiny 13th-century fishing village, Rotterdam today is the Netherlands’ most modern city and Northern Europe’s center for contemporary design and architecture. How did this happen? In a word – war.
Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe, so it’s ironic that the asset that made it successful was the very thing that led to its destruction. In the early days of WWII, the Nazis were looking for quick ways to gain strategic ground, and they found Rotterdam and its busy port an easy target. In an intense, 15-minute bomber blitz, the city center was bombarded. And what the Luftwaffe started, the fires finished. The city’s cultural and architectural center was entirely devastated.
At the end of the war, when the slow process of rebuilding began, in this country known for its quaint, historic villages and centuries-old architecture, city officials decided to look forward instead of back and make a bold statement with cutting-edge modernism that survives in Rotterdam’s skyline today.
If you had a clean slate what would you choose? Holland has no shortage of historical architecture, so when forced to make a change, why not make it a big one?
A job in city government must certainly be a labor of love that’s frequently unappreciated. And even though the city’s rebirth took decades, the city managers deserve credit for helping to make Rotterdam what it is today: modern, vibrant, and unlike any other city in the Netherlands. And this history is preserved in its incredible architecture.
James & Terri