The Rotterdam Experience

The Rotterdam Experience

In the previous post we already mentioned that the case of Rotterdam was in many ways very particular. Although we might not like to give the rankings excessive importance, in the end is the biggest port in Europe in many aspects. This issue must not be forgotten regarding its relation with the territory, the city and the region.

The visits, the city

Regarding the development of the investigation this was also one exceptional case. In previous cases we usually have two weeks to do the case analysis, consult the sources and make the Photographical survey. This time we only had half the time since the ISOCARP congress took one full week. For this reason, and because of the complexity of the case, we also consider that in the future a second field trip will be necessary. This situation is even clearer if we think that some of the main experts and ongoing research relate with the port-city subject are taking place in universities in or near Rotterdam, for example the TU Delft, the Erasmus University or the Hogeschool.

In the available time we were able to perform the necessary field work to have an initial idea of the relation between the city and the port. Following the usual steps for this work we developed a photo survey in some of the city and the port areas. Also we visited several cultural institutions that could contain valuable information, such as the Maritime Museum, the Nai (Netherlands Architecture Institute), the city library or the FutureLand port center, one of two existing ones.

Aerial view of Rotterdam Source: "Port-city development in Rotterdam: a true love story"
Aerial view of Rotterdam
Source: “Port-city development in Rotterdam: a true love story”

The Interviews

During this time we were also able to do three interviews to relevant professionals from the port and city authorities. In the case of the Port Authority (PA), we were able to speak with Ms. Isabelle Vries (IV), Senior Advisor and Program Manager in Corporate Strategy. From the municipality we spoke with Mr. Martin Aarts (MA), senior urban developer advisor and with Ms. Stijnie Lohof (SL) responsible for urban development in southern areas of Rotterdam, who could give the view for the more specific land development. During our interviews a major part of the discussion was on the strategic level. For a second visit we will try to focus the interviews more on the specific development areas where the friction might occur. Also for the future remains a meeting with the communication responsible from the PA, since a reasonable part of the relation with the city and the explanation of the soft-values is made by this department.

The relation between the city and the port


Rotterdam is the port-city par excellence. The creation, growth and future of the city is greatly connected with the past, present and future of the port. As explained in the previous post, the reason of being of this city is its role as a logistic and trade center for the European hinterland. We can see this characteristic when walking on the streets and when we appreciate the existing heritage in some of the areas regenerated on the waterfront. The presence of canals in different spots of the city structure constantly reminds that we are in a water city.

When we study the history of the city we realize that until not so long ago many of the business and families were somehow connected with the port activities. The industrial character of the city has remained for long periods and indeed we find that, although several waterfront regeneration project have been made, a certain roughness of a port-city remains. In the authors opinion this is a positive feature of the city identity, since as said by other Julian Stubbs in the Oslo Urban Arena congress, a city should be its best version of itself, not an imitation of something else. During the stay in Rotterdam we could, in several occasions, witness the existing rivalry between Amsterdam and Rotterdam, just like happens in many other countries. In the case of the Netherlands, from the foreigner point of view, we appreciate that the port-city identity of Rotterdam has been relevant in its development as creative center for architecture and urban planning, among other fields. The fact that port-cities still have in their identity a more open mindset might have allowed Rotterdam to produce bolder projects that perhaps would not have been possible in other contexts. For this reason we consider the new waterfront strategies appropriate for the context.

Port skyline Author José M P Sánchez
Port skyline
Author José M P Sánchez

The citizens acknowledge the port as an important part of the identity, however as pointed out by SL this connection might not be as strong as it used to be. This gradual disconnection could happen for several reasons. The evolution of the port towards the open sea certainly affects the perception of the citizens. As pointed out by different authors: out of sight, out of the heart. Although this is not the only reason, since we still see many ships in the river Maas, the cranes are visible from a major part of the city and the atmosphere still is that from a harbor-city. Another motivation for this detachment might be that, although the port still creates many jobs, is no longer seen as an attractive place to work. This issue is very concerning for the responsible authorities and several measures are being developed as we will later see. The concern about younger generations should be considerable, especially if we consider the increasing number of newcomers to the city. The new youngsters without roots outside Rotterdam might find it difficult to relate with a place and an infrastructure that is not so visible and no longer provides so many jobs for the people less prepared for high skilled positions.

The people still love the image of the ships in the rivers. The manmade landscape the port is, still generates a certain fascination among the inhabitants and there is an intense activity regarding the usufruct of the port soft values, as we will see later on. However, as it happens in other port-cities, there is an increasing pressure from citizens to get activities and leisure areas by the water. This sort of areas already exist in the southwest outskirts of the city, far from the port. The question is how this demanded uses will be made compatible with the existing port areas and port-related industries that exist in the port-city interface.

Not wanting to be alarmist, the issue that might rise is if the relation of the citizens with the port will be proportional with the role the port plays in the economy of the city and region, as we have already seen. Is obvious that Rotterdam is a port-city, but is reasonable that efforts are made so it remains as such in the mind and heart of the inhabitants.


In order to fully understand how the institutional relation between city and port works we must first see the status of the PA and the land ownership. In the case of Rotterdam the PA is a semi-private corporation. Until 2004 it was still a department of the municipality, but the status changed in order give operational freedom to the port and improve the general efficiency of the port. The shareholders are the city (70%) and the state (30%). For this reason the PA is not fully independent. Its economic plans and business models are approved by the municipality and there is a constant dialogue between the mayor and the PA CEO, meeting every two weeks. When the port was established as a separate company its scope and responsibilities were clearly described. The PA would have the duty of all the matters related with the ports, including administrating its territories. Within these responsibilities might be included educational collaboration with universities or start-ups if they are port related or might improve the port activities. The boundary, as explained by IV, was that the PA will not be responsible for urban development.

Kop van Zuid. Port Authority Headquarters, second tower from the right. Architect: Sir Norman Foster. Author: José M P Sánchez
Kop van Zuid. Port Authority Headquarters, second tower from the right. Architect: Sir Norman Foster.
Author: José M P Sánchez

It is also important to understand that the port is autonomous for its development. This means that the municipality does not pays port infrastructure. The PA must carry its own investment for the improvement or expansion of the facilities, as it has happened so far. The municipality does get revenues from the PA as the main shareholder.

The land the PA administrates is leased by the municipality for port purposes. MA explained that for this reason in case the existing industries in the port areas come to an end and there is no clear continuation, or implementation of new port related industries, the land might then move back to municipal control. At the present moment this process is agreed only in the M4H area. Since the land already belongs to the city the port does not get a compensation for it, simply the leasing contract ends. Although here the process has been simplified, it probably is more complex if we consider the PA must be sure there will not be developed any more port activities.

The relation itself has been described as positive by the interviewees. Particular in the strategic level. In this field there has been a considerable improvement over the last decade. The coordination and dialogue between both entities has been intensified, particularly regarding the economic agenda and development goals. The evolution of the relation has been probably induced by a change in the way both entities look at each other. The city has moved from the previous vision of waterfront regeneration, port out and city on, to a new model where the industrial tissue responsible for jobs is also acknowledge as an important urban function. The port cluster is seen as a resource for the city, therefore the respect to the existing port activities in the urban interface as grown. At the same time the port has realized it must improve its interaction with the city. This is particularly relevant if it wants to change its current economic model, very based in the fossil energies industries, to a future model based in new energy resources. At the same time the need for high skilled professionals and the need of the citizen’s support pressures the port to find a sustainable relation with the city and the inhabitants.

When we asked MA about the relation between the city and the port, he mentioned that the biggest critic it could be made was the pace of the implementation agenda of the new economic model. Although the risks related with keeping major fossil fuel industries are clear the rhythm of change towards alternative models is to slow. We might understand the criticism when reading this recent press release from the PA. On the other hand, although the PA might understand the critic, we have to see that, as pointed out by IV, the Port of Rotterdam cannot act by himself in this issue. The global economic model has not changed yet, national and international organizations must provide a more ambitious plan regarding sustainable energy models. Besides these plans there must also be pressure and support to private companies for the change from national and European governments. The evolution must be worldwide and in this scenario the port could and should take a leading role within its context.

In the operational field is where we might find the majority of the frictions, in the closer development scale. In the case of Rotterdam they might occur regarding the use of the land and the rhythm of the goals implementation. As we will see, in the projects implied in the Stadshavens platform, there is discussion about when and where to implement some of the goals defined on the strategic level. Particularly regarding new urban uses or existing industries. However, the consulted authorities confirmed that so far all possible conflicts have been solve by negotiation.

The waterfront of Rotterdam

In Rotterdam the relation with the waterfront has change since the 1980´s. After the postwar reconstruction, the main concern for the municipal authorities regarding urban planning were two: the lack of relation between the city and the river and break between the north and south sides of the river. In order to solve these issues the “Rotterdam Waterfront Program” was developed. This plan, besides dealing with the two issue aforementioned, also interpreted the port brownfields near the urban center as an opportunity to discuss the identity of the city and to improve the existing housing areas. One of the problems was the lack of housing for medium and high class groups. In the case of Rotterdam gentrification was seen as a positive element in order to provide variety to a city where, as pointed out by MA, around 80% of the housing was social housing.

We can find several articles and research about the waterfront of Rotterdam. In the one titled “Port-city development in Rotterdam: a true love story”, we see how the tow waves of waterfront regeneration worked. The first one started with the Oude Haven (Old Port), focused in developing new quality housing, leisure areas and offices. Short after it expanded to other areas near the city center, more specifically Leuerhaven, Wijnhaven and Zahnhaven. Later on the Scheeprartkwartier and Parkhaven also were regenerated with high class standards. Finally, in the late 1980´s, the Kop Van Zuid was also planned. In the last post we already saw to some detail how this plan as developed, so here we will just point out that the two main goals of the waterfront program were also very present. This last area still is under development, the connection between both sides of the Maas has been strengthened and high class apartment and single family houses have been developed. As mentioned before there is a strong gentrification in this part of the city, especially if we consider that in this area used to live many dock workers before the port expanded to the west and that the district of Feijenoord was one of the poorest.

Rotterdam, Kop van Zuid Author: José M P Sánchez
Rotterdam, Kop van Zuid
Author: José M P Sánchez

The question whether gentrification is positive or negative is a never ending debate in the field of urban planning, however it is important to look at the particular context of the case. In Rotterdam there was the need of creating diversity in housing market and also densifying the city center. The process of bringing more people to the urban core is neither easy or cheap, therefore it is almost inevitable that the prices would rise. At the same time the variety within a city could be seen as a positive aspect, particularly if we consider that this would make the city social structure more resilient to crisis or changes in the economic model. It is also important to notice that although the municipality might have been more focused in the high class development during the first waterfront regeneration wave, for the second one the scope changed.


The second wave of the waterfront regeneration in Rotterdam is integrated in the Stadshavens plan. This project started in 2002 and included the remaining port areas inside the city´s highway ring. All together it is area of approx. 1600 Ha. As mentioned in previous post, the scale of this intervention is considerable, particular if compared with other waterfront regenerations in Europe, for example Euroméditerranée in Marseille has 480 Ha or the Kop Van Zuid itself with 80 Ha.

When we look at the map we see that the areas included in the Stadshavens project are: Merwehaven and Vierhaven (M4H) in the north side of the river, Waalhaven and Eemhaven, including the RDM campus on the south bank, and Rijnhaven, with Kathendrecht, and Maashaven on the east part of the plan.

Stadshavens: Source:
Stadshavens Source: “Port-city development in Rotterdam: a true love story”

Initially the idea was to follow the same scheme as in other redevelopment plans. At the same time the port expansion towards open sea, the Maasvlakte 2, was also been plan. The concept would be that the port activities would move to the new area and the place would be free for urban development. There are some particular characteristics that later would condition the success of this initial approach. First of all the size of the intervention did not allowed the same concept as followed in the other areas, the problems and challenges were not the same. Also the location of these areas was different. If in the first wave of waterfront regeneration we observe that is mainly land placed near the city center, therefore more attractive to urban development, in this case not all the territory was directly connected to the urban core. Some of the areas are far from the center and the existing links are not so strong. Another key different was that during the plans developed in the 1980´s there were mainly port brownfields, where no specific activities were taking place. In this case most of the area had an industrial port tissue, with working companies. Finally the role the municipality played in the Kop van Zuid could not be proportionally extrapolated to this case. If in the other project there were several key public investment, like the Erasmus bridge or the expansion of the subway network, in the Stadshavens plan it was not so clear whether the public authorities would be in a positon to act likewise or if would have the resources to it. Finally the Maasvlakte 2 also went through troubled water and the move of the existing industries was not so clear.

In the years previous to the crisis was already clear that the model would not work. The ambitious goals regarding houses were not realistic and the organization was not functional. The presence of two major stakeholders with different goals and priorities together with a third new founded company was not productive. In the year 2007 a new agreement was made in which the Stadshavens would remain as an “umbrella” corporation, which main duties would be to facilitate the dialogue, communication and coordination of the different agendas. The change also implied new goals and a better relation between the stakeholders. The municipality acknowledged the value of the existing industries and an analysis of the companies and contracts was perform in order to have a realistic schedules of the transition in the concerned areas. The idea was to improve the existing maritime and port cluster, potentiating the companies that could help to develop the future model of the port-city economy. At the same time the educational links would be reinforced and the relation with the communities would be improved.

5 main strategies

For the development of the plan five main strategies were decided: Re-inventing the delta technology, volume and value, crossing borders, floating communities and sustainable mobility. We will just do a brief comment about these strategies instead of explaining in detail all the different points since they are well described in several articles and brochures.

Regarding the delta technology the main goal is to make Rotterdam a reference in a field in which already has an important role. The technologies associated with deltas and flood management are well developed in the region, already leading companies in the world are installed in the city. This path will be exploited and the Stadshaven will become a reference with new companies, bringing the benefit of the associated jobs to it. The industries from this field would be mainly placed in the Waalhaven and RDM campus.

RDM Campus Source:
RDM Campus

In the volume and value strategy the goal is to develop the area into a mix of added value companies working in the port-maritime cluster and short sea hub for transshipment to secondary harbours. Regarding the new industries, one of the goals, besides creating wealth, is to stablish synergies with the local communities and therefore improve the public perception of the port activities. Along with this target is also fulfilling the needs of new employees for these companies by creating links with educational institutions.

When the organization mentions the crossing borders strategies, they mainly intend to develop a different kind of interaction between city and port, better than the one being carried so far. The main point is developing activities that so far might have not been so present in the port, like the educational institutions or the creative industries. In this strategy the RDM campus has played the leading role so far. Another new type of interaction will be the creation of new housing areas, mainly in the eastern part, Rijnhaven and Maashaven.

The floating communities strategy is self-explanatory. In the Stadshavens project we shall see a new sort of urban development, directly on the water. This sort of building is not new in the Netherlands, but the new approach should bring interesting results. There are already prototypes being tested in the Rijnhaven for housing and near the RDM campus for floating trees and offices spaces. Very recently in these facilities, the aqua dock, a floating office space, started to be built.

Floating communities Source:
Floating communities

The last strategy is the sustainable mobility. About this point the most relevant innovation will be the development of the waterborne public transport system. In order to give a new relation to the city with the port, this new transport should play and important role. The waterbuses and watertaxis accentuate the port identity. In this case if we see the map we notice that the option of blue transport is logical also for practical reasons. The closest connection between both sides in the majority of the Stadshavens territory is by water, and some of the main points will need an efficient public transport system, like the connection from the RDM to the city center or M4H.

In the organization´s office and in the website we can find information about the planned schedule of the Stadshavens project. The short-term phase is coming to an end this year, the second phase should go until 2025 and the third phase will expand until 2040, coordinated with the regional development concepts. The plan has been developed more on a strategic bases rather than a blue print with closed designs. This flexibility will allow an adaptation margin in case is necessary or even the renegotiation of the goals for certain areas, like perhaps the fruit cluster in the M4H.

As we can see the plan has evolved from the initial approach and some of the main goals as well. The intention of developing housing areas was rethought. In the project, as pointed out by MA, this program would be implemented only in the land where it would be compatible with the existing activities. Therefore we would find it more easily in eastern part, Rijnhaven and Maashaven. Also in the areas placed in the north side of the river, which eventually will fully move to municipality control, housing developments are plan, but only in the long term scenario. Nowadays we find here a major fruit cluster for the production of juice and other port related industries. At the same time in this area the transition has already started, some land is already administrated by the municipality and the front-runner creative companies are already functioning there.

In the southern areas the PA will still be in charge of its administration. This decision is mainly connected with the fact that the existing and new port related companies will bringing added value to the city and the port. In Waalhaven and Eemhaven we can find different sort of industries from container terminal to fiber optic cable developing companies.

Closer scale

During our meeting with SL we came to know that there was already an existing dialogue between the different parts involved in some projects in the Stadshavens areas, before the platform existed. She also explained some of the operational aspects in the development of the projects in the nearer scale. For example not all projects must be organized by the Stadshavens platform, probably just the strategic level and some key developments or complex plans that might require major negotiation between the stakeholders. In other cases the projects can be directly developed by the local organizations.

Another interesting aspect regarding the discussed was the existence of “beauty committees” that must approve the implementation of the plans for the local projects. These committees are formed by several independent professionals and citizen representatives. They exist in the areas under municipal supervision, but in some cases they must agree with the port quality committees which would have another point of view. Occasionally in this level we might find some frictions that are solved via negotiation.


Included in the Stadshavens area we can find a very particular case, the village of Heijplaat, placed between the harbours of Eelhaven and Waalhaven. This area was developed at the beginning of the XXth century for the shipyard workers. When the activities ceased the village began to be more isolated from the city center. In the 1980´s faced the risk of being demolished, but the public pressure sorted effect and an agreement was found for keeping the villages intact. At the same time, since the village is in between port areas with safety legislation, it cannot grow more than the 200 houses that currently form it.

This area presents an interesting contrast with the surroundings since is made mainly of small single family houses and in the background we can find several port industries with heavy machinery. For the village the Stadshavens plan might bring very positive outcomes. The development of the RDM campus in the old shipyard facilities creates new activities and possible jobs in the start-ups growing there. At the same time it might also be an option for the educational path of the local inhabitants. Also, until the arrival of the new campus, one of the main issues was the lack of direct connections with the city center. This problem is already solved since now there is a waterbus connection that should be more intense in the future as the activities in this area grow further.

Heijplaat: contrast between village and cranes Source:
Heijplaat: contrast between village and cranes

World Expo 2025

In the relation between city and port in the context of Rotterdam there is another ongoing interesting debate, the World Expo 2025. A group of entrepreneurs has been preparing a possible application of the city for the 2025 expo. The main topic of the expo would be “changing currents”, very much related to the need of developing an alternative economic model. Within the general theme another relevant subject would be “deltas in transition”, an issue very relevant in the Netherlands, that is obviously connected with matter of the water and the port.

When we asked the municipal and port authorities about the issue, both agreed that, if done properly, it could bring very positive results to the city. The problem might be what it means to do it well. MA explained that it could be reasonable to make the expo in waterfront location if it is related with the water, however always having in mind the consequences of the decisions to be taken, particularly regarding the location and the effects in the whole economic model and existing industrial tissue. It is necessary to develop a long term goal and, if considered appropriate, use the World Expo as an accelerator for the project. MA was also favorable of developing a model that would engage the whole city instead of having the focus on just one area. IV agreed with the need of having a very clear long term goal, not thinking just in the 6 months the venue lasts, and a vision or need for the transformation of an area in the waterfront. Regarding the discussion of the location it was clear for her that a similar approach like in the Stadshavens plan should be made, that is to develop the expo in areas that are brownfields or in the process of becoming one. For this reason it would only be logic to develop it, for example, in the M4H area and not in the Waalhaven or other land with functioning port related industries. This possibility, as she explain, would only make sense if the goal is very clear and if it is really necessary for the transformation of the area.

Port of the future investigation

The concerns about the public opinion regarding the port are not something new. Already in 2007 “the port of the future” project was developed. In this project the PA and the NAI asked six renowned architecture and urban planning offices of Rotterdam to develop an investigation about the aesthetical qualities of the port and how they could be enjoyed by the public. In this theoretical exercise the firms, MVRDV, West8 or Mecanoo, among others, acknowledged the port as a fascinating manmade landscape, with aesthetic values difficult to find in any other context. In the proposal we could see different approaches, from giving a representative role to the roads to and around the port, the plans for implementing a system of viewpoints, alternative uses of the Maasvlakte 2 dune, the enhancement of the new clean technologies as a new element of this artificial landscape, even in same case the office propose to treat the port territory as a national park, a landscape to cherish.

As conclusion to the study Wouter Van Stiphout wrote an interesting essay with the provocative title “Lipstick on a Gorilla”. In it the author notices the change in the relation between the port and the city and points out the new stage of the relation, in which the port is something that requires explanation.

Current coexistence strategies

Port territory

In the images we can see the port of Rotterdam extends over the territory, from the city to the open sea. This extension, over 40 km, implies also a relation with bordering towns, like Maassluis, Westvoorne or Hook van Holland. In order to have a positive relation with these settlements, as explained by IV, there are meetings twice a year with them, to discuss the issues that might affect them. The PA follows tailor-made approaches to cope with possible negative externalities. At the same time the companies are also implied in this process.

Map of the Port of Rotterdam. Different areas and several towns in the boundary Source:
Map of the Port of Rotterdam. Different areas and several towns in the boundary

There is a structure of buffer areas to diminish the nuisances caused by the industries placed in the port, mainly noise, dust, odor and gases. For this purpose there are electronic system to detect if the different pollutions are within the legal parameters, in case they are exceeded the responsible authorities are warned to act. Simultaneously we see a discussion regarding “smart” urban planning, mainly concerned with not developing housing areas in land near port activities that might later cause problems to inhabitants.


The case of Rotterdam is a good example of how to explain the soft-values of the port. The effort developed for the social integration of the port is remarkable and proportional to the size of the port itself. As we have already seen a considerable part of the effort is being made in the relation with the educational institutions. At the same time that we see increasing synergies in the higher education level, also in the primary and secondary school several actions are being developed.

Besides the improving the opinion about the port among youngsters, the main goal is to show how the port can be an attractive place to develop a professional career. This concern comes also because the port is foreseeing a possible shortage of qualified workers in the future, particularly when the change in the economic model takes place.

Port center

In Rotterdam we can find two port center, the EIC Mainport Rotterdam in a center position in the port land, and the more recent FutureLand in the Maasvlakte 2 expansion area. During our visit we were only able to visit the second one since both are not easily reachable with public transport.

Both centers have different scopes. The EIC is focused in explaining in general terms the functioning of the port. It was open in 1994 and is a joint project between the PA and Deltalinqs. The FutureLand on the other side is far away from the city center and is focused on explaining how the expansion project of the port works, its consequences and benefits. The investment in this second one, the one we visited, is considerable. In it we can find different spaces with hi-tech infotainment devices prepare for the interaction with adults and children from different ages. Besides there is also a restaurant, exhibition areas and the sightseen terrace. Both centers offer guided tours to the port facilities. In the case of FutureLand one of the main attractions is the boat tour, since we can navigate near the giant container ships.

FutureLand, Maasvlakte 2 Author: José M P Sánchez
FutureLand, Maasvlakte 2
Author: José M P Sánchez

Besides these port centers we can also see the newspaper done by the port for explaining the ongoing activities. These light publication is available not just in the port centers or in the PA head office, but also in some public areas, like the access to the tunnel that crosses the Maas river.

Port as a place to visit

During our visit to Rotterdam we could see for the first time in the research trip that the port is not just the economic motor of the region and key infrastructure, but also a tourist attraction. There is a specialized company, Spido, focused on providing tours around the port. This activity manifest the interest in the port, not just for the locals or the port workers, but also for the visitors. The tourism industry is growing fast and different sort of visitors are surging. It is interesting how something that is not at all thought or prepared to become an attraction for this activity as grown to a point where it became a very demanded activity. Certainly we see this mainly in harbours with a reasonable scale, where the visitors can see the big ships and cranes that form the image we see so often in magazines or websites when looking for Rotterdam or Hamburg.

The rise of different kinds of tourism represents an opportunity to enhance the public view of the port. In Rotterdam, besides the company aforementioned, we find that are dedicated to industrial tourism, like this one. If the PA is able to associate themselves with this sort of activity, going beyond the education and port centers, we could have a better acceptance of the port in the cities and perhaps a better understanding of it. The port is not just an industrial area by the water, the meaning it carries for the society and the place it takes in the collective memory should be cherish. Particularly if, as we see, the general interest in it is already growing.


The industrial port heritage in Rotterdam has an important role for the cities identity. If we consider that during the WWII the historical city center was tear down during the air bombings, we understand that any element that might retain a memory connected to the past is of great importance. However, as pointed out by SL, this appreciation of the industrial heritage has grown along time. These building might be protected but are not intend to stay crystalized, as museum or monuments, the general approach is to integrate in them urban functions.

We can find buildings that will go through an interesting transformation in Katendrecht. In this area of the city there still are functioning industrial facilities which in the future will hold an interesting mix of uses. In some cases we might even see the coexistence of industrial activities with housing. If this happens it will probably be only with certain types of activities that might be compatible with other uses.

Maritime Museum, historic harbor

Just like in many other port-cities in Rotterdam we can find a Maritime museum. In this case it is placed in the city center, by one of the many water canals. The museum has a remarkable collection, from old maps, paintings and pictures to old clothing from fisherman. Also has recreations of the interiors of cruise ships and several areas dedicated to the children. Another part of the exhibition is dedicated to the harbour. They have a detailed model where we see the evolution of the port, the importance of its presence and how many goods from our daily life come through it. The museum also has a library dedicated to maritime themes, including port bibliography.

Besides the building, the museum also has an important feature that might have greater impact than the collection itself, a harbour for historic boats. In this area in a water canal we can visit several boats, cranes and other port machinery. Next to this space we will also find a workshop dedicated to boat and engines repairs, that we can also visit and get to know better the inside of some ships.

If we consider that the maritime museum is in the city center and that also contains a fairly detailed explanation of the port, we could understand why is not so problematic that either of the port centers are not placed in the urban core. All three facilities form a powerful tool for explaining the maritime world and the port, each one of them with its own scope, more historical one in the museum, a general view in the case of the EIC and the future of the port in the case of the Future Land.

Historic harbor Author: José M P Sánchez
Historic harbor
Author: José M P Sánchez

Personal Opinion

The case of Rotterdam, as we said in the beginning of the post, is a very complex one. The dimension of the port magnifies many of the issues and solutions that could see in other port-cities. For this reason is a very good case to study the relation and detect future models that later might serve as inspiration for other port-cities.

After the initial analysis here perform we can clearly see that one of the most positive aspects of this case is the existing dialogue and cooperation between the city and the port. The coordination of agendas and goals in the short, medium and long term development is crucial for the success of the alternative waterfront development model they are following. The fact that the city was able to change the vision towards the existing industry and adapt its housing strategy should bring positive outcomes in the near future. On the other side we see how the new role of the PA´s could be in the next decades. Alternative solutions are necessary for the change in the economic model and the engagement of the PA in port related activities, going beyond territorial management and containers, could be the path to follow.

In this city, where the port has played such a vital role for its development, the weight it has in the urban identity is very clear. The support and pride of its citizens in the port is clear, however the necessary measures must be taken in order to keep that way. At the same time, as pointed out by MA, the evolution is necessary so the inhabitants identify themselves not just with the ships and cranes, that someday will be a nostalgic image of the past, but also with new more sustainable model.

The Stadshavens plan is one of the most interesting ongoing waterfront regeneration initiatives in Europe. We should pay attention to its evolution to notice if they are able to fully develop all the strategies. The goals are very ambitious but, if the collaboration continues, the context seems to be the most appropriate to experiment with alternative to the previous pre-crisis schemes.

The initiatives done for the social integration of the port are in Rotterdam very advance. As we have seen, there is a coherent set of facilities working for the diffusion of the port soft-values. The attention they get from the public is clear, however it would be interesting to see the repercussion they really have. For example what has really changed since before they were open, or what is the general public opinion regarding the port expansion. It is important to notice that due to the limited time this issue should be studied in further detail in visits to come.

In conclusion Rotterdam could be seen as pioneer in the port-city relation field. The initiatives and strategies here developed should be looked up by other cases. In Lisbon we could definitely learn, for example, regarding the dialogue or the alternative approaches towards the relation with the river. The future seems to be nearer in Rotterdam, we will see how it happens.

Continue reading “The Rotterdam Experience”