Unwasting Space: Rooftop trail offers residents fresh view of city, opening minds to repurposing and revitalizing barren assets

On May 26, 2022 in the Netherlands, the Rotterdam Rooftop Walk opened. This carpeted trail almost 100 feet above the city allows the public a very different experience of their community.

The Rooftop Walk aims to give the public a new perspective on the city.

The extensive programming should increase visitors’ awareness of the potential of repurposing roofs: transforming them from wasted space to a “second layer” that makes the city more livable, biodiverse, sustainable, and healthy.

Visitors are now venturing across a variety of the city’s rooftops at a height of 30 meters.

Designed by Rotterdam Rooftop Days and global design firm MVRDV, the highlight of this installation is a bridge spanning the Coolsingel, one of Rotterdam’s most important streets.

The bright orange Rotterdam Rooftop Walk is 600 meters long and offers the public a fantastic view of the city for a month.

In the rooftop exhibition artists, designers, and architects show how much is possible if we use our roofs efficiently for greenery, water storage, food production, and energy generation.

On top of the installation, built by Dutch Steigers, all kinds of makers show how roofs can contribute to a sustainable, healthy and livable city; from a virtual village to a green design for the roof of the Bijenkorf department store.

The temporary installation is an initiative of Rotterdam Rooftop Days, with the concept and design developed together with MVRDV. As an office, MVRDV has actively worked on solutions for the scarcity of space in the city for years, and hopes to prevent the continued urbanization of rural areas.

Rooftop programming can help with major issues such as climate change, the housing crisis, and the transition to renewable energy; the Rooftop Walk draws attention to these problems – making visitors more aware of the possibilities, especially in a city like Rotterdam where 18.5 km2 of flat roofs remains unused.

In 2006, for the celebration of 75 years of Rotterdam’s reconstruction, we designed the Stairs to Kriterion, which attracted almost 370,000 visitors. That’s when the idea arose that it would be good to make a sequel to the project,” says MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas.

During the Eurovision Song Contest, the idea was to make a high stage to honour the winner, but that was cancelled due to the pandemic. I am glad that Rotterdam Rooftop Days have managed to achieve this, and I want to argue for a further sequel: we should not only occupy our roofs and make them greener but also connect them so that we can offer Rotterdammers a new rooftop park! For this, the orange carpet and the bridging of the Coolsingel are a nice initial test case,” he added.

Designing for roofs is becoming a tradition for MVRDV: in 2021, MVRDV and Rotterdam Rooftop Days, together with the Municipality of Rotterdam, presented the Rooftop Catalogue, a handbook with 130 innovative proposals for better use of existing flat roofs. This book has since inspired other municipal authorities to take concrete action.

The team that designed the Stairs to Kriterion and the Rooftop Walk have also designed a third rooftop installation: The Podium, which opens on June 1. This pink podium on the roof of Het Nieuwe Instituut will be accessible to the public free of charge and can be reached via a 143-step external staircase.

The Podium overlooks the MVRDV-designed Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, and will form the heart of Rotterdam Architecture Month, which will organize various events at The Podium in June.

All images © Ossip, via MVRDV.

See MVRDV website.

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