Article: Christopher George
Blurring the lines between art and reality. Rotterdam makes other European cities seem out of synch with modern living.
The idea of a utopian civilization was idealized during the post war years- designed by young architects and town planners. Yet by the late 70s and 80s, society under this structure was falling apart concrete slab by concrete slab. Rotterdam on the other hand, due to an absolute necessity to plough forward, has invented the most ideal, modern utopian city in Europe, or as damn close to this idealism comes anyhow!
One of the key successes of Rotterdam as a city is how it engages with cultural issues, contemporary arts and its inhabitants. When you travel around the city (which is extremely easy on foot, bicycle or public transport), you are constantly confronted with structural objects of art. It almost seems that Rotterdam is littered with them, so much that the lines between art and reality become obscured.
With much of Rotterdam’s architecture emerging from the schools of Brutalism- that is loved and hated in equal measure elsewhere. The buildings have not been condemned for demolition like many places in the rest of Europe; Rotterdam has embraced this period of architectural design and social progression, by entwining it with the contemporary arts and the new emerging architectural designs as the city grows bigger, bolder and more confident about its future.
For example, a simple a public staircase crossing roads, becomes not just a staircase to transport its passengers safely through the city, but also a piece of street art.
The roads passing through underpass merge with the traffic signs, tram wires overhead and the towering buildings are all a canvas. A bench in the shopping centre is a structure of contemporary furniture. Then you walk round a corner to be confronted by a huge sculpture of a Santa Claus balancing a monstrous ‘butt plug’ in one hand, and an unaffected mother chats to her child directly below it.
The urban landscape has allowed its self to become a canvas for arts to emerge within it and on it, with a sense of humour! Buildings with empty walls have been endorsed with murals. This is not uncommon in many grey towns, but the relationship with the art and the soul of these other cities often seems at odds with each other, making the art seem uncomfortable. Not in Rotterdam, where you often question if the building was prepared as a canvas for the actual art work, how ever large or small. You begin to walk the city and question every merging line that passes by your eyes and question; is this art or is it a utility? Believe me, It’s pretty exciting to think on these levels!