Sunday, July 17, 2011

Down by the banks

After Elliot and I were privileged with a weekend visit from long-time friend, Gadiel, the boys headed off to Italy for a manly adventure in Milan, Parma, and Cinque Terra. While Gadi was here, we toured him around our 'hood, went to Den Haag for a dinner party, and also Delft for a day trip. We tried to check off all the Dutch things to eat: raw herring sandwich, fries with mayo, bitterballen, appletaart with cream, and a fresh salmon dinner and Dutch potatoes from the market. On Monday, July 4, I saw them off at Rotterdam Centraal. So fun to have you around, Gadi!

Dinner party in Den Haag

Good friends deserve good bubbly!

With Gadiel, we all rode bikes over Hotel New York on the southside of Rotterdam--a neighborhood called Kop van Zuid (cup vun ZOWD). After the boys left I had some time to myself in Rotterdam, and decided to explore this part of the city a bit more. Kop van Zuid is situated across the Erasmus Bridge, on the south bank of the River Maas, surrounded by water on three sides. Wilhelmina Pier on Kop van Zuid originally headquartered the first transatlantic Rotterdam--New York cruise line (also called the Holland America line) from 1873 to 1978. In the first twenty-odd years, about one million Europeans migrated to the US via the Holland America Line. Hotel New York was the administration headquarters, and now actually is a hotel and popular café and restaurant.

View of Kop van Zuid from the Erasmus Bridge

Hotel New York on Wilhelmina Pier
Before the opening of the statement-making Erasmus Bridge in 1996, Kop van Zuid wasn't always easy to get to--only by water taxi. I must say, the bridge is pretty darn magnificent--trams, cars, cyclists, and pedestrians can travel in each direction and has their own, separated lanes. I learned that the positioning of the 140-meter-tall single pylon was a contentious topic for Rotterdamers. As you can see, the cable stays of the bridge lead crossers to Kop van Zuid, away from the city center. Symbolically, the assymmetrical bridge, also called "The Swan," can be seen a gateway to the southern part of the city because of this positioning. Now, this bridge is considered an icon of the city, much like the bridges in the Bay Area especially the Golden Gate.

[top] view of Erasmus Bridge from Kop van Zuid [bottom] walking over the bridge

In fact, this discussion reminds me a lot of a lecture from a transportation planning course that explored the contentious debates over the positioning of the pylon for the new Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland. Oakland wanted the pylon on its side of the bay; and San Francisco wanted it on their side. The pylon's postion was finally settled just east of Treasure Island, closer to SF.

Kop van Zuid is rapidly becoming a mega-dense urban islet. Several large-scale projects can be seen from the bridge, and the neighborhood already has numerous skyscrapers--some of the tallest in the country. Most of the buildings comprise of a mix of uses with commercial, residential, and office space--offering some of the best views of the city, and country for that matter. Plus, there's some incredible old warehouses re-purposed into apartments, hip cafés, art galleries, and restaurants with no names (they are that cool)--and just a good mix of the old and new. Personally, I would love to live in this neighborhood and it seems like high-rise city living will soon be the future for many Rotterdamers--as it already is for many.

[top] view of Kop van Zuid from Erasmus Bridge
[bottom] rendering from Rem Koolhaus's OMA

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