Client: Stadshavens NV, Rotterdam
Design: Monolab, team: J.W. van Kuilenburg with T. Iwashita, J. Pena
Year: 2005


…a variety of urban typologies on peninsulas


Rotterdam is going through a tragic period since the 1970’s. It is missing middle and higher income groups, it has a widespread social segregation and it is still parasitizing on the notion of what was once considered to be a city of architecture. What actually happened in the architectural field in the last 25 years? Devastatingly little…


At the same time an enormous potential is released by the redevelopment of former harbor territories that are in a process of high speed transition by the city council. Unfortunately the market has realized weak infills of brainless, standard developer’s schemes. The Kop van Zuid and Mullerpier are exemplary of urban planning methods in which looking ahead is considered a taboo.


Another chance is currently offered by the Stadshavens area. Its position, far from the city center, implies an autonomous character that instantly and completely has been weakened by the city planner’s nostalgic notion of ‘connecting city and harbor’… This of course is an illusion. If something moves at an enormous scale it is ‘the Rotterdam Harbor‘, a 24-7 monster organism, with ten heads and dangerous tentacles, which moves at high speed through the digestive channel of the river westward towards deep water. The second Maasvlakte is located at sea as the ultimate platform for ‘the harbor that has released itself from Rotterdam’.


Stadshavens also has a massive scale, five to seven times the Kop van Zuid area. Location and scale of Stadshavens made us decide to see it as an autonomous project with its own qualities. If we consider the spatial development of Holland (everywhere more of the same), it offers Rotterdam, at last after 25 years, a re-occurring position of ‘the city that boldly looks ahead’. Stadshavens could become a reserve for kinds of urbanism and architecture that have no chance of survival anywhere in Holland and that can grow and exist only here. Harbor cities all over the world, although these are developing their former harbor territories in somewhat different ways, all look more or less the same. The Stadshavens reserve with its own borders and its own interiors can deliver so much more…


An autonomous look onto the Stadshaven area with the right frame shows an enormous collection of peninsulas and piers, well situated along the river. All water in the center of this area is very seperative. The planning of the Stadshavens project office defines every pier and peninsula as another extension of existing urban territory. In this way Rotterdam continues to glue extension to extension to extension… Exactly this is the reason why we propose to link the concept of the reserve to the wealth of this archipelago.

To counter tragic Pavlov thinking of market parties we made a matrix of three basic groups (12 kinds of ‘public spaces’, 8 kinds of urbanism as ‘urban clusters’ and 12 kinds of of service programs via ‘big architecture’). It delivers over 900 new combinations of urban typologies. Big Architecture would preferably not be designed by the so-called ‘star architects’, but by young architects that have things to prove and have more contact into our developing culture. An example. A pier is planted along its quays with three rows of ‘Dutch High-rise’, towers of limited height. The towers are positioned to allow free views over the urban river landscape. Public space is a sea of flowers that renews itself every season with typical flowers, from sunflowers to crocus, from poppy flowers to rocket lettuce. The center of the pier is taken by local ‘big architecture’, an old supertanker, a 400-meter colossus assembled in parts on land and reprogrammed with public activities like a hotel, food cluster, congress center, swimming paradise, library, studios, etc. A real characteristic in the Stadshavens area is the cranes along the quays as a leftover of the pre-container era. A crane museum with restored cranes spread along all quays of the peninsulas will bring visitors, activating the area.