A Running Tour of Rotterdam Part One : Modernist Architecture and Fast Food

While in Rotterdam, I embarked on a lengthy run one afternoon to explore the modern and beautiful port city.   As our hostel was located almost directly on the Nieuwe Maas, a distributary of the Rhine river, I wanted to explore along the waterfront and then head towards the famous cube houses.   I was interested to see if the houseboat culture of Amsterdam transcended city boundaries.  Although I did see a few, most de-commissioned boats that I saw had be transformed in floating bars, restaurants, and hotels.   As was noted during our Port cruise of Rotterdam, the city’s shipping industry is still very much alive and well.  I began to leave the edge of the Nieuwe Maas and reached my first stop; the Cube Houses. Designed by architect Piet Blom in 1984 the houses represent a forest with each individual house representing a tree.

Cube Houses

I was a little underwhelmed to be honest, but the unique design and hopeful vision of the designing architect is something worth noting.   As I continued  I noticed that cars were much more prevalent in Rotterdam, and although there was ample bike traffic it was not as pronounced as in Amsterdam.  As Rotterdam is a post war city that was completely rebuilt after being leveled during World War II, city planners would have incorporated the rise of the personal automobile when designing the road system.

Continuing past the cube houses I came across Centrale Bilbiotheek Rotterdam, or the Rotterdam Public Library.  This impressive building is another example of modernist design influence in Rotterdam.  The area in the vicinity of the library is designed to encourage public interaction and social gatherings, with a cafe and outdoor patio attached to the library and benches and tables shaded by trees just outside the library’s doors.

The Library

As I began to make my way west I entered the shopping and business district along Meent, one of the busier car heavy streets that I encountered during the trip.  There were several lanes of traffic, and at the intersection of Meent and Coolsingel I inadvertently stumbled across a building whose design has made it well known in the architecture and perhaps even culinary world;  The Coolsingel McDonald’s.

Source: deezen.com

Unfortunately the photo I took did not turn out very well, so I have sourced one from the internet to illustrate this post.   The Coolsingel McDonald’s was designed by Dutch architecture firm Mei Architects.  Hired by McDonald’s after the original building was voted the “ ugliest in the city” by Rotterdam residents, The new building features a spiral staircase, glass walls, and golden accents.  I felt a little silly taking photos of a fast food restaurant, but the unique design felt like McDonald’s was a worthy part of my Rotterdam running tour to document.   


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