A debate about the future of Rotterdam

Design as Politics professor Wouter Vanstiphout will join the debate ‘Roterdam, the neverending story’ on Thursday (21 Jan) at 20.00. Together with Zihni Özdil he will respond to an essay by Paul van der Laar, Eeva Liukku and Jacques Börger about the future of Rotterdam.


“Rotterdam is a cold, unfriendly, ugly and sombre city.” This is what inhabitants told social psychologist Rob Wentholt about Rotterdam in 1968. Wentholt researched the reconstruction of the city after the Second World War and the perception of inhabitants about the city centre. He interviewed people from different neighbourhoods and presented his work in the book ‘De Binnenstadsbeleving en Rotterdam’.

After the bombings of the Second World War, Rotterdam was rebuilt rapidly into a modern, functionally furnished city with an extensive transport network. In 1950, 1955 and 1960, the municipality of Rotterdam celebrated these results with big events: Ahoy Rotterdam, Energy ’55 and the Floriade with the Euromast. The municipality aimed at making people proud of their city again. In the second half of the sixties, however, these feelings seemed to change. In 1966 a movie came out about Rotterdam with the title ‘Stad zonder hart (city without a heart).

Nowadays the picture is completely different again. Rotterdam is booming. The number of inhabitants is growing and Architectural icons like the new Central Station, the Markthal, and off course Holland’s biggest building ever, ‘The Rotterdam’ by Rem Koolhaas have led to international recognition. According to the Lonely Planet Rotterdam is even one of the best destinations for a city trip in 2016.


But how do we prevent Rotterdam from becoming just another touristic flagship of city marketing? And how to maintain the city’s rough edge, which gives character to this city that, is never finished? And what do the inhabitants of Rotterdam actually think about these recent urban developments? What could be the future for this city? Is Rotterdam going in the same gentrified direction as many European capitals? And what does this mean for local residents?

To find out the answers to these question, Museum Rotterdam, the Willem de Kooning Academy and Rotterdam viert de stad! are repeating Wentholt’s research 75 years after the beginning of the reconstruction of Rotterdam by asking Rotterdam’s inhabitants about their experience of the city. What exactly is Rotterdam celebrating after these 75 years of reconstruction?

Wouter Vanstiphout and Zihni Özdil will discuss the future of Rotterdam in the Timmerhuis on the 21st of January. The debate will be led by Rineke Kraaijenberg and starts at 20.00 h. You are welcome to join!