Rotterdam’s overhauled Central Station: a new centre of mass for Europe’s largest port city
From: Dutch, September/October issue 2014.
For more than eight years travellers arriving or leaving Rotterdam by train used a makeshift station as the old station was torn down and a new one was slowly erected in one of the most massive building sites the city has ever seen. The result has a high wow factor.
Tourists walk at a leisurely gait across the vast esplanade in front of the recently overhauled Central Station, soaking up the sunshine. Occasionally they are pausing to make snapshots or to admire the huge inverted V of the roof over the station’s main concourse whose reflecting stainless steel gives rise to the building’s iconic character and which points to the heart of the city. “This grand entrance,” says Team CS, the architectural cooperative responsible for the design, “is clearly the gateway to the high-rise urban centre of Rotterdam.” It is where post-World War II reconstruction has changed the face of Europe’s largest port and “where striking and varied modern architecture of international stature gives shape to the most alluring skyline in the Netherlands.” The latter is not a quote from the Rotterdam tourist office. It comes from the New York Times, which listed Rotterdam number ten on a line-up of fifty must-see destinations in 2014, putting it in the company of such cities as Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona. The trendy Rough Guide was even more flattering when it ranked Rotterdam number eight of ten top destinations for 2014. And that was even before the new Central Station was opened by king Willem Alexander last March.
To travellers a station maybe just a place to get off or on an train, for the cities that build them, however, they are essential centres of mass in the delicate and easily disturbed urban tissue and can be a decisive factor in a global economy where cities are pitched against each other in the struggle to attract businesses and employment. With the overhauled Central Station, Rotterdam – in global terms a medium large city the size of Seattle or Baltimore – has a trump card. The passenger terminal is an important national and European hub that connects international high-speed trains, national trains, tram, bus, light railway and subway. Some 110,000 passengers use it on a daily basis, a number expected to triple in fifteen years’ time.
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