Taking the train to the Netherlands turned out to be a mess. Because we weren’t able to buy the tickets ahead of time, there weren’t enough seats for all of us on one train. So, we were strung out over 3 trains, which were anywhere from 1 to 3 hours apart from each other. Long story short, we all made it to Rotterdam, but at very different times. Our hostel in Rotterdam was called “Hostel ROOM Rotterdam,” which was an amazing place. It wasn’t very expensive, had a ton of character, and the staff was incredibly nice. Free Wifi also, which was how I was able to put up the post on Venice while on the road. By the time everyone arrived in Rotterdam, all we had time to do was grab a quick dinner before the restaurants closed and then hang out in the warm hostel before heading to bed in our Madagascar themed dorm room. Yes, I am not kidding about the theme. Photos from Michael:
The next morning we met Olivier over at his hotel across the river. We crossed the Erasmus Bridge to get over there, a project designed by Ben van Berkel:
Right next to the bridge was another of Renzo’s projects, the KPN Tower. The whole tower leans out over the plaza below, and it supported by one massive brace.
Later in the day we briefly visited West 8’s Schouwburgplein Rotterdam, a vast urban plaza with 4 large light posts. These 4 posts are bright red crane-like arms that are actually operable (although we didn’t see them move while we were there).
You can see some more awesome pictures of the project here – http://flickriver.com/photos/tags/schouwburgplein/interesting/.
Rotterdam is a super-walkable city. Everything you want to see is within a 15 minute walk. We traversed the entire city at least twice a day. You just have to watch out for all of the bikers and trams. Here are some pictures from walking around some of the main park-boulevards through the city:
One of the most important buildings for architects to see in Rotterdam is the Kunsthal by Rem Koolhass (OMA). It was one of the first big projects that they did, and helped them become so well-known. The building houses a rotating art modern art collection, a presentation hall, and a great cafe/restaurant.
And of course, what would the project be without a portrait of Rem. He has a bit of an ego. Just a little bit.
Olivier is also friends with Winy Maas, one of the partners at MVRDV. We got a tour of their office, but because of their current projects, we weren’t able to take any pictures inside. So a picture of the mailbox will have to serve as proof that we actually went. They have some pretty incredible projects in the works, and even more that will never be realized because of the economy. Bummer.
One of their projects happened to be nearby, so we walked to it after the visit. Didden Village is an addition to a row house in Rotterdam. The family needed to add bedrooms for their two new boys, so they decided to build on top of their loft. Rather than trying to match the style of the existing buildings, they went the complete opposite route, coloring the entire thing blue.
During our stay, we split our stay between Hostel ROOM Rotterdam and The Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen). The cubes were designed by architect Piet Blom in 1984, and have become a sort of icon in Rotterdam. It was a pretty interesting building, but because of the orientation of the angled walls, there was a lot of wasted space. But it was a nice hostel with a great free breakfast. The view of the sunrise in the morning was pretty cool too. Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures of it, just a couple from the outside and of the sunrise.
The next day we rode the train to Amsterdam to get settled in our hostel, and then immediately went back to the train station to take a day trip to Utrecht. The main purpose for the visit was to see the Educatorium, another OMA project, but there were other interesting things as well. For example, BasketBar by NL Architects, which is a basketball court placed on top of a sunken restaurant. The circle in the middle of the court acts as a skylight into the restaurant area below.
Also in Utrecht is the Rietveld Schröder House, a building we have studied in school. If you are familiar with the De Stijl movement, it’s one of the prime examples.
The next day was our last with Olivier, who took us on a long walk around Amsterdam to see a bunch of things. The day started off with a brief viewing of Steven Holl’s addition to the Sarphatistraat Offices. It’s a modulated box clad in perforated copper panels that have patina-ed over time.
Walking down one of the Amsterdam canals:
We came across one of the famous windmills:
We then headed to the Eastern Docklands (Oostelijke Handelskade) to check out The Whale project by Frits van Dongen:
Immediately adjacent to The Whale were two bridges by West 8, connecting the Borneo Island and the Sporenburg Island. They are bright red twisting bridges with a wood plank surfacing.
On the other side of the bridge is the Borneo-Sporenberg community, which is basically a series of contemporary Dutch canal houses planned out by West 8 in the mid 90’s. It is a very interesting area to explore, and houses a number of really intriguing housing types.
The last project we saw with Olivier before he departed back to Los Angeles was the Silodam Housing Block by MVRDV. It’s a giant housing block made up of a number of different unit types, organized on the outside by color and material.
One the way back to the hostel, we passed the now-famous Bike Ramp, which is a huge parking structure at the main train station exclusively for bikes:
The next day we had a few hours to explore the city before heading out on our over-night train to Prague. We started off the morning visiting the Anne Frank House (after waiting in line for almost an hour). They wouldn’t allow us to take any pictures whatsoever. So, all I can do is tell you about it. It is a very sobering place, and should high on the list of things to experience in Amsterdam.
Afterwards, we went to the I AMsterdam sign over by the museum square.
Everybody told us to go see the Heineken Brewery while we were in Amsterdam, so we decided to do that in the afternoon. They have an entire interactive museum for visitors, including a bar for tasting their freshest beer. It was a pretty cool experience, and I have to say it was the best Heineken I’ve ever tasted (not that I’ve had that many though).
The last thing we saw in Amsterdam was Renzo Piano’s Nemo project, the National Center for Science and Technology. We didn’t spend much time here, so I’ll direct you to another site for a little more info – http://www.galinsky.com/buildings/nemo/index.htm.
We had to scarf down a meal at the hostel (because the service was so slow and they still got our orders wrong) in order to make it to the train on time. We ran through the station and made it on with about 5 minutes to spare. At this point, the field studies portion of our trip was completed, and the group split up to visit different places around Europe for the next few days. I went to Prague and Berlin with 5 of my classmates, while the majority of the others went to Copenhagen before heading to Berlin. Here’s what our 6 person cabin looked like on the 14 hours train ride from Amsterdam to Prague…:
Overall, the Netherlands was a pretty awesome place to visit. The people are very nice, and almost every speaks perfect English. The food was pretty good and not terribly expensive. The public transportation was super-efficient and all of the cities were generally very clean. The one thing that wasn’t great was the weather. Cold and rainy was about all that we saw across the entire country. Luckily, the rain was pretty light while we were there. By this point we were starting to get ready for the warm weather back in Barcelona…
More on Prague, Berlin, and jumping off moving trains in the next post.