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Rotterdam Centraal: possible future

Global Forces: Rotterdam Centraal (The netherlands)

Leon van Hoof

On the basis of a public private partnership, the city of Rotterdam, NS (Dutch Railways), Rodamco Nederland, and ING Real Estate have commissioned British architect William Alsop to develop a Master Plan for the restructuring of the Rotterdam Central Station Area. The 'Masterplan Rotterdam Centraal', as presented in April 2001, covers a development surface area of 20 hectares in the city centre of Rotterdam, including the station itself. In this area 640,000 m² of office space, housing and urban leisure amenities will be developed between 2003 and 2018. The new station will become the most important interchange of the High-Speed Rail System in the Netherlands.

As far as capacity and quality are concerned, the existing Rotterdam Central Station no longer meets the requirements of the current transport demand. To be able to satisfy the requirements of an international interchange, the construction of a new station is very necessary. The area surrounding the station is also urgently in need of regeneration. As the development of the HST-station and the redevelopment of the station area are of national importance, the government has designated the project 'Rotterdam Centraal' as a key project.

Three goals
Three goals have been formulated for the project 'Rotterdam Centraal'. The new station is to become a 'terminal': a high-quality transportation node, operating at the European, national, Randstad, regional, and city levels. The area in the vicinity of the station will be functionally and spatially developed as an integrated part of the city, to generate a maximum economic spin-off from which the adjacent districts can benefit. Finally, an intensive urban programme will be realised in the area.

Historical perspective
The early days of the Second World War erased the majority of Rotterdam's 19th Century heritage, providing Rotterdam with a 'clean slate' from which to develop a modern city. The Master Plan is of key importance to the goal of substantial intensification of the city centre and, particularly, to the reinforcement of the functions of the area as a whole. Rotterdam is searching far and wide for new initiatives and new self-confidence as a modern, multicultural European city. The city has to find itself a new position, out of the shadow of the port that dominated the development of the city since the Second World War. The society of the future is an urban society - this is clearly evident throughout the world. It is important, therefore, that the city (and the open space surrounding it) be a good place to live, work and relax. To this end the Master Plan will contribute to urban life in all its nuances.

Global and Local Context
Contemporary cities are part of increasingly interwoven and interconnected urban regions. Economy, culture and social relationships are no longer restricted to the boundaries of the traditional city. The range of options regarding locations where people and businesses carry out their activities is becoming increasingly large, varied and international. Rotterdam is addressing these questions and adapting to the new reality. An essential element of the Rotterdam Centraal project is that it generates new relationships and activities at different levels. The city is being interlinked with the qualities that are present elsewhere. Conversely, the city is becoming a major option in the larger (trans) national region. Rotterdam Centraal is becoming another gateway to Schiphol Airport. The high-speed railway will bring Rotterdam within an hour's journey time for over 6 million people. In that context, Rotterdam Centraal is not only a physical project; it is a catalyst for other initiatives. It does not determine in advance, but facilitates a framework that will be responsive to future market developments.
With this project, Rotterdam wishes to steer itself into an economic and socio-cultural location in high demand by establishing itself in the increasingly important Delta Metropolis urban network.
The accompanying development programme has been outlined in a quantitative as well as a qualitative sense, as it has to fit into the urban absorption capacity and the broader rhythm of city development. At the same time it will have to appeal to the dynamics and demands of the region at large. Research has shown that a station for the high-speed railway, although not a guarantee, is an important prerequisite for this.

Urban context
The Rotterdam Centraal area must be an integral part of the city centre. The area must be effectively connected to the surrounding city as well as become the domain for all kinds of urban activities and functions. Dwellings, office space, restaurants, bars, hotels, conference facilities, shops, theatres, cinemas and sports facilities - the area will have to offer everything that makes 'city'. It is important for Rotterdam Centraal to be supplementary to the current range of functions in the city center. Rather than compete with other urban districts, it must act as a catalyst for other urban districts and encourage their growth and further development.

Rotterdam's aim is to substantially increase the number of people living in the city centre. Currently, the city centre has some 28,000 inhabitants. Given market developments and the city's aspirations for increasing building density, this number could be increased by approximately 12,000 over the next decade. Rotterdam Centraal will play an important role in facilitating this increase by the construction of some 1,000 dwellings.

The city centre is one of the primary locations for the development of office space in Rotterdam. Rotterdam Centraal provides investors with an excellent opportunity to capitalise on the available development land that is required to meet the projected market requirements for office space. 
Not only because of its unrivalled accessibility but also because of its intrinsic links to the urban fabric of the city centre.
Rotterdam Centraal will attract a wide variety of office uses, types and scales. Because of its potential and flexibility Rotterdam Centraal will attract new companies and institutions from outside Rotterdam looking to relocate to a quality city centre environment.

Urban leisure and entertainment
Leisure, arts and entertainment have become dominant functions of city centres. Not only in their classic forms such as cafés, restaurants, cinemas and museums, but also as elements of other developments. Shopping centres for example can be transformed into entertainment centres with leisure and recreation functions.
The city centre of Rotterdam is the main domain for recreation, leisure, culture and shopping in the urban region of Rotterdam. To sustain this function, a high-density development is required at a variety of locations in the centre.
Rotterdam Centraal is an important factor in these future developments. It will provide the itinerant crowds with a diversity of facilities, from bars and restaurants to shops and hotel facilities.
The Rotterdam Centraal Master Plan also provides the potential for the development of an urban entertainment centre appropriate to the international character of the location that will attract national and international visitors.

The Four Components of the Master Plan
The Master plan has four component parts: the Mobility Hub, Delftselaan, Hofplein Quarter and Weena boulevard. The parts have not been conceived in isolation from one another; they are to a degree interdependent. Collectively they contribute to new routes into and through the city, regenerating in some instances decayed city fabric and former city patterns that had lapsed from consciousness.
As isolated ingredients within the sum of the Master Plan they respond to the functional and social requirements of their location. They balance the opportunity to create new, extraordinary places to be with a desire to sensitively negotiate the requirements of existing places, developments and residential districts.
The Mobility Hub is organised at 3 levels
The -1 level Concourse (Reizigersplein)
Street level (Maaiveld)
The Upper Concourse (The Balcony)

Each transport mode has a specific position within the Mobility Hub; the position is based on projected user demand, the position in the network and technical and spatial requirements. The arrival and departure points for the integrated modes of transport exist within this 3-dimensional transport matrix, either at Reizigersplein, Maaiveld or at Balcony level. The Mobility Hub provides for direct visual and physical linkage between all modes of transport (train, bus, metro, tram, car, bicycle) a conflict-free pedestrian area and associated niche retail facilities.
Delftselaan is a new urban 'river' flowing east west through the city-centre. It links along its route various functions, programmes and types of public space. It is a key element in establishing linkages between the city and what would otherwise be isolated components of infrastructure and real estate development. Delftselaan has a tranquil slow speed 'avenue' quality.
Hofplein Quarter is a new city quarter at the confluence of a number of urban patterns and scales. The aim of the Master plan is to relate the real estate development mix in this new city quarter appropriately to its environment following the established precepts of ambience and linkage.
At the Weena boulevard the balance is shifted from car traffic to pedestrian areas. This is achieved by reducing the number of car lanes and increasing the number of pedestrian areas.

Rotterdam 3D Rotterdam Centraal Rotterdam Section Rotterdam Bird View Rotterdam Centraal: Kruisplein Rotterdam general map Rotterdam Centraal: Hofplein