Revitalizing Europe’s largest port while reconnecting Rotterdam to its water

What does it really take to build a booming public waterfront? According to Project for Public Spaces a successful waterfront needs 10 qualities to flourish.

What can we say about these qualities when looking at Rotterdam Harbour (Netherlands)?

The first thing we have to understand about the Rotterdam waterfront, is that economic reasons always have been the prime concern of the city council. Even now when city planners decided to bring back the water in the minds and hearts of the citizens of Rotterdam and turning the city harbours into urban living & leisure neighborhoods.

This, of course, is not without reason, for Rotterdam did not turn into the biggest harbour of Europe overnight.

The waterfront redevelopment can be divided into two different waves. The first wave emerged during the early 1980s, when an impressive large-scale waterfront redevelopment program called Kop van Zuid was planned and carried out. The second wave concerns the area of Rotterdam CityPorts.

The waterfront redevelopment strategies are focused on making Rotterdam a more attractive location for ‘knowledge industries’ and ‘knowledge workers’. But also by attracting high-income residents, as policy makers believed that the city has a shortage of middle-class households. After decades of focusing on economics, industrialization and growth, more and more citizens perceive further port development in terms of negative effects for the local community – i.e. road congestion, intrusion of the landscape, noise and air pollution and the use of scarce land.

This development strategy, to bring back the Maas river back into the core of the identity of the city, revolved around two main developments:

  • Restore the link between the inner city and the river (thus extending the inner city towards the river); and,
  • Bridge the physical and psychological barrier between the north and south bank of the river.

The latter would be possible when the inner city and the river were not divided by the port areas any longer.

The old port areas adjacent both sides of the river all held some unique and authentic characteristics. Each area was redeveloped separately, building upon their unique qualities.

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