Architecture. Rotterdam truly has a lot to offer
In addition to spectacular high-rise buildings, pretty much all architectural styles are represented (if not all). Let's have a look at some of this city's gems.
Modernism, or "Modern Architecture" (approx. 1920 – 1960): like the Cruise Terminal and Van Nelle Factory (World Heritage Site); using steel, glass and concrete, characterised by flat roofs and whitewashed walls. Air and space matter. Less is more.
Neo Modernism (1985 – 2005): like the New Luxor Theatre. In fact it is like falling back on the "syntax" of Modern Architecture: flat roofs, horizontal window bands, plastered facades.
KPN Telecom's regional headquarters in the proximity of the cruise terminal, represent Super Modernism. A style also known as "Super Dutch": the continuation or rather the perfection of modern architecture with neutral buildings and minimalistic rectangular shapes. It was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. It is located next to the building called De Rotterdam by Rem Koolhaas, one of the main eye catchers along Rotterdam's skyline.
The Markthal is located in the city centre, a 30-minute walk off the cruise terminal. Its opening in October 2014 was attended by none other than Queen Máxima. In addition to the (4600 m²) indoor market, the complex is home to 228 apartments; 1600 m² are dedicated to culinary facilities and a car park.
The Markthal was designed by the architectural firm MVRDV. The grey stone building is like a giant arch, or a horseshoe. It has a glass wall on both sides.
On the inside, the Markthal reveals a huge piece of art by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam, called Cornucopia (11,000 m²), referring to the mythology. According to Coenen and Roskam, their work is "a tribute to nature and the universe." In 2014 international media referred to it as "the biggest piece of art in the world". So far the Markthal has claimed quite a number of Dutch and international architectural awards.
Royal Crescent, Bath
The City of Bath is home to some amazing Georgian architecture and Britain's only natural thermal spa, the world famous, Roman Baths. It is the only city in the UK to be granted World Heritage status. The Royal Crescent is a perfect example of Bath's Georgian architecture. This impressive landmark forms a sweeping crescent made up of thirty Grade I Listed terrace houses and the 19th May 2017 will mark exactly 250 years since the first stone was laid at No.1 The Royal Crescent.
The water mirror
The "Miroir d'Eau" (water mirror) is less than 10 years old, but located just across from a monument nearly 3 centuries old, it has become one of the city's main attractions.
Located across from Place de la Bourse, between Quai de la Douane and Quai Louis XVIII, this spectacular pool, designed by landscape artist Michel Corajoud, alternates a mirror effect and artificial misting in an extraordinary way.
The rhythmic changes in 2 cm of water on a gigantic slab of granite make this location truly magical. Children adore playing here and it is a meeting place for lovers as well as people who enjoy putting their feet into the cool water in summer!
Located between the Garonne and beautiful 18th century façades, the Mirroir d'Eau is the most-photographed site in Bordeaux and is listed as a contemporary World Heritage Site by Unesco.
Modern Architecture in Historic Haarlem
The town of Haarlem has successfully been redesigned in recent years. Resulting in the city centre being a mixture of modern architecture with original historic buildings. One prime example of these designs is the so-called 'Toneelschuur'. This modern 'House of Theatre and Film' is the brainchild of the in Haarlem born designer and comic-artist Joost Swarte, whose ambition was to create a 'happy' building. The 'Toneelschuur', together with its modern siblings the nearby 'New Courthouse' of Haarlem and the "Haarlem Philharmonic", are prime examples of a successful integration of modern and historical architecture in a complicated urban environment. They were built in the middle of the historic heart of the city of Haarlem, near the 'great market' where the 'Big Bavo Cathedral' is located. This cathedral built in the 14th century, notably uses its 'clock tower' as an entrance to the courthouse.
Le Havre on the World Heritage list
In July 2005, UNESCO listed Le Havre's city, rebuilt by Auguste Perret, as a World Heritage site. Perret was a major 20th century architect, a "concrete poet" and an innovator. Atelier Perret pulled off the feat of taking classic tradition and combining it with modernity to reinvent a unique 133ha centre whose architecture is clear, airy, harmonious and resolutely innovative.
Le Havre's centre is the first 20th century European urban settlement to be on the World Heritage list.
"Les créations de l'homme sont filles de l'histoire qui les entoure." (Man's creations are the product of the history which surrounds them)
Auguste Perret, the concrete poet
Le Havre was severely bombed at the end of the Second World War and was one of the worst affected cities in Europe: 5000 were killed and 80,000 were left homeless out of 160,000 inhabitants; 150 hectares of the historic centre were destroyed.
As well as having an important role in export, the maritime and port city had strong ties to transatlantic transport: its reconstruction became a national priority as it showed the world that France was rising from the flames. The French post-war government decided to combine all the skills required to make Le Have an exemplary city.
Auguste Perret's pupils and former students united to form a Le Havre reconstruction workshop. They designed a new city intended to re-house the city centre's 40,000 people. This involved building approximately 10,000 residences in 150 orthogonal blocks in two plots along the former docks. Within the twin grid, Rue de Paris, Avenue Foch and Boulevard François 1er formed a monumental triangle to reflect the position and role they occupied before the war. Iconic buildings were also reintroduced: the town hall, stock exchanges, arcades, churches etc. Low-rise and high-rise buildings in blocks harked back to the traditional courtyards, streets, squares and public gardens. These open residential blocks reflected the modern idea of our "right to peace, air, sun and space."
Approximately 100 architects worked on the project between 1945 and 1964; they created a landscape in keeping with the setting in which the buildings reflect the many variations in a single architectural language.
World Heritage List
Modern architecture on the whole and particularly Auguste Perret's work may not have been given the respect they deserved prior to Le Havre's city centre being made a UNESCO's World Heritage site in 2005, but that's just one chapter of the story.
It may be a first in Europe for post-Second World War heritage (the only other example of a post-World War II World Heritage site being Brasilia) but it represents the end of an extremely long process of heritage preservation which began when reconstruction work in the city ended. The heritage was seen through new eyes at Institut Français de l'Architecture's (French Institute of Architecture) behest and the work of researchers and historians. The city of Le Havre devoted itself to the conservation and restoration of the reconstructed built environment by setting up a Zone for the Protection of Architectural, Urban and Landscape Heritage (ZPPAUP) and following up with a plan to promote the heritage by being awarded the title of a City of Art and History (Ville d'Art et d'Histoire). This initial transformation and the quality of the application for candidacy resulted in the site being added to the World Heritage list in July 2005.
Heritage promotion: City of Art and History
In 2011, Le Havre joined the national network of Villes et Pays d'Art et d'Histoire (French towns and areas of art and history) by setting up a group of heritage-related initiatives in all areas: architecture, history, society and humanitarian. The accreditation was awarded for 1950's architecture which thus highlighted the aim to promote the architecture, now part of the heritage, to the locals and especially to young people. Le Havre combined two areas whose skills complemented each other and improved the quality of the services available to the public: tourism and heritage events.
How people see Le Havre has significantly changed since the rebuilt centre was added to the World Heritage list. Also, the scope of initiatives has broadened to include other ideas in the same vein: exhibitions, events, biannual modern art exhibitions, re-organisation of land and large-scale urban projects. These activities are living proof of how far Le Havre has come.