“Son of a b*tch..!”
You know that feeling when you know that what you just witnessed was an act of genius? That feeling you get when seeing how simple yet powerful something is that you wonder how come you haven’t come up with it yourself, but yet you haven’t? The feeling of awe mixed with disappointment?
During my recent visit to the Netherlands, I went to Rotterdam – my architectural birth place, as I call it – to see how and if the city has changed since the last time I’ve been there (internship with Erick van Egeraat back in 2008). One of the things – or buildings, to be precise – I wanted to see was, obviously, OMA’s De Rottedam. And I have to say – I was quite impressed.
Honestly, looking at it from across the river Maas, it didn’t seem all that special. The parti – shifted blocks – was clear to the point it was bland. However, as I started crossing the Erasmus bridge, getting closer to the structure, it started to speak. For all the talk of “Manhattan on Maas”, I have to say – this building actually did it: it is a true piece of Manhattan, but a surreal one – which makes it that much cooler.
All of us probably remember the cover for the later edition of “Delirious New York” – the picture of the facades of the Rockefeller Center extension on 6th avenue. Well, De Rotterdam is the clone of those buildings, only made 3-dimensional. The facade’s and parti’s blandness start working magic when you are at mid-range: from far it’s nothing but a stupid vertical pattern and a few blocks, from close the detailing isn’t great (as is almost common with OMA’s buildings). But mid-range – that’s when it makes you dizzy as the building starts seemingly mirroring, multiplying and overlaying itself. The building is almost fractal being big, but small, but big still (definitely huge for R’dam’s scape). The sequence of interior spaces in the public part of the building is classical Koolhaas: a meeting room suspended over a parking garage which looks “honestly” right into the atrium – not a “filthy” pragmatic “support” space, tucked away somewhere no one can see it, but a space in its own right, totally worthy of being shown off as a luxury. It is all a little too grey, and a little too stark, and a little too Rotterdam, but damn, does it work!
Now, I do have to say that I only visited the “public” part of the building. I did not visit any offices or apartments. I am sure critics will find there’s plenty wrong with them. I do not know that, and can’t judge or tell you anything about them. However, what I did see – I loved.
Good job, Mr. K. and Co. Loved it.