Rotterdam te huur
‘Vacant NL’ was the title of the exhibition for the Dutch pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2010.
The exhibition has conceptually summarized a research highlighting unused and empty public buildings all over The Netherlands, while proposing strategies for temporary reuse. After 5 years and two other Biennales, the theme of vacant space is still of utmost importance in The Netherlands. Perhaps, Rotterdam is the most afflicted city due to its post-industrial attitude. However, vacant industrial spaces are coupled by a whole array of empty office buildings, which spread throughout the city center.
In 2014, Rotterdam was crowned best city in Europe at the Urbanism Awards and a recent interesting online article describes Rotterdam’s post WWII renaissance (Dafne.com), while highlighting some major issues still affecting its urban environment.
During an afternoon of the last year, we crossed Rotterdam city center collecting a series of photos that clearly testifies how much vacant space is out there. Our focus has been mainly on office spaces to rent.
What I have been wondering for some time is, why all (privately owned) empty office spaces are not rented for less?! Why there is no will in filling the space anyways? An answer may be: cheaper rent means to record a loss of capital in a company’s books. Perhaps, an action as such, would undermine companies’ value more than any unpaid rent.
Still, the feeling is that Rotterdam has great potential because of all that space at hand, but the question of how to use it remains. Moreover, there are precedents of buildings due to demolition that have rejuvenated after bottom-up private initiatives (Schieblock). This kind of approach is in favor of start-ups, small enterprises and self-employed professionals, which could be the new Rotterdam’s workforce after the industrial demise.
As a last thought, I personally believe that a place like Rotterdam, equipped with vast empty spaces and buildings, is the perfect setting to develop a new cluster focused on technologies, innovation and research, which could counter act the harbor decline. In 2015, selling Rotterdam’s image as the largest harbor of Europe sounds outdated. To look at the future, a step forward is required and it may break with history, once more.