Interesting buildings in Rotterdam
Rotterdam is renowned for its striking architecture, its rich and varied cultural life and its port, which is the largest in Europe. If you look at photos of the Netherlands from a century ago, you’ll find that most of Rotterdam is unrecognisable from what you see there today. Having been bombed beyond recognition in World War II, many of Rotterdam’s old buildings are lost to history.
Following the war, the city was rebuilt to varying degrees of aesthetic beauty and architectural ingenuity that has divided opinions over the years. Nowadays, the city is celebrated for many of its remarkable buildings.
Interesting buildings in Rotterdam
The Netherlands is packed with notable buildings, from Medieval churches to the Amsterdam School style of architecture to contemporary award-winning designs. Rotterdam is the perfect place for anyone fascinated by interesting or innovative architecture, and even rare historical gems.
Here are some interesting buildings to give you an idea of how varied Rotterdam's architecture is:
Schielandshuis, an opulent palace from the 17th century, is the only preserved building in the centre of Rotterdam of this vintage. Construction began in 1662 – around the time Rembrandt painted his masterpiece The Night Watch.
Today, it’s a museum highlighting Rotterdam’s colourful history and the tourist office is located in the building. It’s like an oasis of the old world, surrounded by ultra-modern, high-rise buildings and office blocks.
Witte Huis, or White House, is a building dating from 1898. It’s a National Heritage Site built in the Art Nouveau style and the first high-rise building in Europe, with 10 storeys.
When it was being designed, architecture experts were sceptical about the viability of the building. The soft soil of Rotterdam and the fact that the site was only one metre above sea level was thought to pose threats to the stability and longevity of the building. A thousand piles were driven into the ground to support the Witte Huis’ height.
It’s made from iron, steel and concrete - wood was avoided due to the risk of fire. Luckily, it was one of the very few famous old buildings in Rotterdam to escape the German bombings of World War II.
Hotel New York
Nowadays, Rotterdam's cheerful Hotel New York is a hotel and restaurant, but it was originally built in 1901 as the shipping offices of the Holland-America Lines in the Kop van Zuid district in Rotterdam. The building became a national heritage site in 2000.
Hotel New York was built in the Jugendstil style by architects J. Muller and Droogleever Fortuin. In 1913, it was expanded to include a 38-metre tower, and four years later, a second tower was added. With these added towers, the building began to resemble the Hotel New York we know today.
In 1974, Holland America Line relocated to Seattle and by 1988, squatters occupied the building. After being taken over by the municipality of Rotterdam, plans for a hotel finally took shape and Hotel New York opened in 1993. Today, Hotel New York is a charming place to visit by the seafront, amid ultra-modern buildings.
De Unie is a replica of an iconic building, reminiscent of Mondriaan’s paintings. Like a work of 20th-century modernist art squeezed between 19th-century terraced houses, it’s one of Rotterdam’s many surprising structures.
The original building, built in 1925 by Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud, a famous proponent of De Stijl, was met with outrage by many critics of the day. Its bright blue, red and yellow colours, vertical and horizontal lines and lack of decoration struck many as garish and shocking. Other critics found it "too dependent on Mondriaan in design".
The original building was bombed during the German air raids in the 1940s. In 1986, a replica of De Unie was built on the Mauritsweg, immortalising the famous design forever.
Van Nelle Factory
The former food, coffee and tobacco processing factory, built between 1925 and 1931, is one of UNESCO's World Heritage Monuments. The Van Nelle Factory is an example of the International Style of modern architecture, comparable to the famous Bauhaus school, based on Russian constructivism.
The factory produced coffee, tea, tobacco, chewing gum, cigarettes and instant pudding until production stopped in 1996. Nowadays, the building is a noted landmark and houses co-working spaces, company offices and spaces for meetings, conventions and events.
The observation tower known as the Euromast is another icon of Rotterdam. It represents Rotterdam's maritime character, imitating a ship’s bridge, mast and crow’s nest. The replica bridge is complete with navigational equipment and a map room. At 100 metres in the air you'll find the crow’s nest, which houses two restaurants.
It was built between 1958 and 1960, shortly after the Netherlands became part of the European Union (then known as the European Economic Community). The name of this structure was chosen for its international appeal: the word "mast" is the same or similar in many European languages.
It has seen many changes since the 1960s, such as the addition of an extra Space Tower onto the top of it. There are hotel suites, restaurants, and meeting spaces in the main part of the tower. Thrill seekers can also go zip-lining from the top of the Euromast.
The Cube Houses in Rotterdam were built by Piet Blom in 1974. The cubes are somewhat bizarrely set at 45-degree angles. Blom’s original idea was that each cube house would represent a tree, and together, the houses form a forest.
The houses are located just outside Blaak Metro station. There are 38 cubes and two “super cubes”. One of the cubes is a show house or a “show cube”, allowing curious passers-by access to the interior of the house for just 3 euros, and one of the super cubes is now a hostel run by the StayOkay hostel chain. The houses contain three floors and the total area is about 100 square metres. Another set of Piet Blom’s cube houses were built in Helmond in the province of Brabant.
Maastoren is currently the tallest building in the Netherlands. It’s 165 metres tall and located on the bank of the New Meuse (Nieuwe Maas) river.
It consists mostly of office buildings, such as the Deloitte headquarters, but there are also conference rooms, meeting rooms, a gym, a reception, a waiting area and a parking garage. The Grand Cafe is open to the public, and there visitors can enjoy striking cityscape views.
Every year, a sporting challenge takes place to raise money for charity. The Maastoren Challenge involves competitors racing up the stairs from the bottom to the top.
The Markthal (meaning market hall), is an imposing, arch-shaped indoor market building and is celebrated for its decorated ceiling.
The ceiling is mesmerising, embellished by a 1.100 square metre artwork by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam called “The Horn of Plenty”, depicting fruit, vegetables, seeds, fish, flowers and insects. The artwork was created using 3D digital techniques, with the images printed on 4.000 aluminium panels. It and has been dubbed “The Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam”.
The complex is not just a market hall – it also has 228 apartments, retail and catering spaces and a parking garage.
History is being made in Rotterdam as we speak! At 215 metres tall, Zalmhaven Tower, which is under construction, is set to be the tallest building in the Netherlands. The skyscraper, which will consist of 450 high-quality apartments, will be completed in 2020.
Come and marvel at Rotterdam's architecture
You’ll love the innovative buildings of Rotterdam. If you think you’ve seen enough Golden Age canal houses in Amsterdam or royal buildings in The Hague, then perhaps the modern metropolis of Rotterdam is more likely to float your boat.