Prof. ir.

Wim van den Bergh Architect



Selected Invitations

“Translucent City”

Architecture International Rotterdam / AIR Festival 1988

The Railway Tunnel Site

i.c.w. Arets. W.

Publication: 1988/10, 1989/04



Translucent City

The city should be a void which is only filled in with thoughts, evoked by the buildings that determine its emptiness. The surfaces modifying the city's void should have depth; not only should the city have a horizontal and vertical, but also a mental transparency. The facades of the modern city are not flat; these surfaces have to have the depth of doubt in which they define liberty as translucency. There is no definite city as there is no definite meaning.

Modern cities are accumulations of effects whose causes are reversed. Here there is no causal continuity of past and future, but only a direct reversibility, an emptiness. As architects we do not fill this void between cause and effect, but act in its freedom. The architecture for the city of Rotterdam worked out in this design speaks about this freedom, about the void of ordered chaos, the anarchy of metropolitan life, about form, geometry, materials and their tension of translucency, and last but not least about its void filled with thoughts.

Perspective view towards south

drawing by Wendi Bakker


1 - Satellite Tower

This tower contains 39 double-high stories for offices and a 40th story with ateliers. The 80 story high interior court functions as a light-catcher and makes the building with its glass block facades a sparkling pearl at the Rotterdam Skyline; the 'Meuse-town' is the only Dutch city that is developing a skyline for its city centre.

2 - Balcony of Erasmus

This balcony functions as a podium for speeches and performances, like during the announcement of the Erasmus Prize winners, or at the annual Rotterdam Festival of Humanism.

3 - Hanging Villas

The transparent villa units are horizontally and vertically surrounded by light and air, however connected to each other by two parallel facades, giving the whole the appearance of a slab that bridges the Pompenburg. On the inside the villas prove to be 3 story (210 sq. m.) individual units isolated from each other by means of 27 story high light shafts and roof-gardens on top of every individual villa.

4 - 68 Mars Apartment Towers

This complex of apartment towers defines an avenue which connects Pompenburg with Blaak. The constructive platform, on which the elements a re placed, functions as a viaduct on top of the railway-tunnel. This viaduct is constructed by means of concrete ribs that span more than the width of the tunnel and thus can be independently founded; so to prevent the above structure from vibrations and noise transport and also to avoid extra weight on the tunnel foundation. In the two apartment tower strips the concrete ribs are extended into wall slabs that function as the spines, carrying the apartment towers.

Every tower has a raised two story high shop on the first floor that can be reached from the avenue platform by a ramp, further each tower contains 7 double story (128 sq. m.) apartments and a double story penthouse with roofgarden.

5 - Concrete Forest

The connection between the slab of hanging villas and the Binnenrotte avenue is made by a forest of concrete pillars carrying one side of the slab, thus forming an impressive decorum forthe open air theatre. This forest of ‘pilotis’ also contains the monumental staircase to enter the 3 story high gallery that bridges the Pompenburg and that finds a climax on the balcony of Erasmus. This gallery functions as a pedestrian bridge and as an access to the hanging villas.

6 - Scala Theater

Together with the stairs in the concrete forest this staircase, leading from the raised platform to the avenue level, forms a perfect theater to enjoy the perspective of the avenue. This perspective is interrupted before it reaches infinity by the transparent screen, the so-called interface of commerce.

7 - The Binnenrotte Avenue

This avenue is dedicated to the strolling pedestrians and the ‘flaneurs’; the actors and at the same time spectators in the Shakespearean way of thinking, that are so important within the theater of metropolitan life. The emptiness of the avenue is the main theme of this stretched void; this emptiness thus functions as an urban element of great importance. It is the emptiness for the parades, the markets and festivals, the void that always demands public or private initiatives to be filled, but it is only a temporary fulfillment, one not obstructing but on the contrary catalyzing the flow of metropolitan action.

8 - Zocalo

The space at the back of the building by J.J.P.Oud is turned into a raised square surrounded by facades and a plane wall, a socle creating a central void that awaits events.

9 - Entrance and Exit of the Parking under Blaakstation

Besides parking a car, here it can also get a complete technical check up or a wash. It is a place to change from the car into one of the public traffic systems or to go on by foot; it is a center of movements, connections and exchange, one can go up to the interface of commerce, to one of the Blaak tower offices, or to one of the underground shopping centers; it is indeed one of the major moments in the undercroft of the city.

10 - Interface of Commerce

This transparent screen houses all the access and transportation systems to the Blaak towers, the Blaak plaza, the Blaak stations for train, subway and bus, and to the parking decks. Further it houses on each gallery floor a strip (full length of the gallery, with a total length of 3.5 kilometers) of small transparent showcases displaying a complete range of Rotterdam products and services, thus forming a continuously changing exhibition of commercials. In doing so it becomes a huge screen filled with moving dots of people walking on the galleries, using the escalators or moving up and down in the panorama-elevators against the background of the city and its skyline.

11 - Blaak Towers

These tower slabs located at one of the nerve centers of Rotterdam, house a variety of top class off ices that in their function are particularly aiming at representation and connection. The office spaces combine the individualism of spatial representation, as expressed in their architecture, with the idea of the exhibition as a focal-point of commercial exchange and continuous intersections. The Blaak towers offer the highest level of services available and their location provides excellent connections with all traffic systems like train, subway, car and helicopter. So these office spaces are especially interesting for those companies who like to inform their customers about what they produce or what services they deliver, just in the right ambiance to do business. Also they are interesting for the growing market of firms that use a high level of telematic information exchange, which means that these firms do not require large office areas anymore, but only a representational nucleus that is connected with its satellites or terminals by means of telematic networks. The tower slabs are glassed on only one of the long sides thus facing the completely closed marble facade of the next tower slab; in doing so the office layout combines privacy, view and panorama up to an optimum level for representation.

12 - Panorama Elevators

The four panorama elevators start at the four galleries on the top floors, so they do not obstruct the movements of the elevators that service the office levels in the same shaft below. The two outside elevators go up to the highest point and make a stop there for about 4 minutes; in that time they make a 360 degree revolution after which they go down again in their temporal sequence they are two minutes apart. The two central elevators go up in a very slow and revolving movement, making three complete revolutions in going up and three in going down. These two elevators have a synchronized sequence.

13  Blaak Plaza

The Blaak Plaza is a tilted reinforced concrete frame, filled in with a grid of pre-casted glass-block cassettes. It functions both as a plaza and as the translucent roof of the Blaak railway and subway station. The top of it is used by a variety of restaurants and cafes as an outdoor terrace.

14 - Blaak Station

Here the main traffic streams intersect each other on different levels under and on the surface, but all within the big open space covered by the Blaak plaza. It is the place where the car, train, subway, bus and pedestrian systems are interconnected vertically and horizontally making it a space of multiple movements but always in clearly visual directions and levels. It offers a broad range of services related with traveling, but also department stores and shops can use its high public density on the different levels to sell their products.

15 - Cross-Cut Path

A path conducted by a wall that makes a cross-section through the city triangle of Rotterdam, from the balcony of Erasmus up to the escalator of heroes.

16 - Belvedere Apartments

This is a crystalline forest of 64 glass-block towers of different heights with one story (100 sq. m.) apartments each having particular views (like one has from within a forest) of the surrounding city and riverside. In the context of the city they act together as a skyline at the end of the bridge, where they fully exploit the change of direction the traffic has to make to heighten their own effect. Coming from other sides, e.g. passing by on the Maas-boulevard, they present them selves as a rapidly changing skyline, a staccato of individual crystals.

17 - Helicopter Platform

The helicopter platform not only functions as another fast traffic connection with the Blaak towers, but it also is the platform from which the stage lighting for the pier theater and the illumination of the Willemsbrug can be directed. Further it can be used as a panorama platform during times when there is no helicopter traffic. The wedge shaped wall from which it cantilevers also acts as a background for the pier theater.

18 - Escalator of Heroes

A 75 m. long double escalator bringing people up and down to the helicopter platform.

19 - Pier Theater

An open air theater for 1000 spectators built into the water like piers.

20 - Crane Tower Apartments

These extraordinarily shaped apartment towers are another landmark in the Rotterdam skyline at the other side of the Willemsbrug. Each tower contains besides a range of communal spaces and services 29 one story apartments (ranging from 60 to 180 sq. m.) in its shaft and 16 three story apartments (150 sq. m.) plus individual roof garden in its projecting overhang. These overhang apartments are not opened to the sides with

windows, but they receive their daylight and view by means of a light shaft transecting the apartment from top to bottom thus giving it an extra dwelling dimension. Although its form looks quite extraordinary its construction principal is very simple, in fact they form together with the parking garage, the facility block and the sports-park a kind of rib cage, a floating box balanced by the asymmetrically placed overhanging towers.

21 - Sports Park

The park area under the projected overhang of the crane-tower apartments contains a wide range of sports facilities, a running track, a sunken cycle track, tennis courts, basketball and volleyball fields etc.

22 - Facility Block

This block houses besides a small hotel a selection of facilities related to the sports park such as fitness, sauna, massage, medical, and also some restaurants for special foods and drinks.

23 - Hef swimming pool

The so-called Hef lifting bridge remains after the completion of the railway tunnel not only as a pedestrian bridge, but it will also be equipped with a transparent swimming pool in its middle part. It may sound spectacular to have a transparent swimming pool hanging under the bridge, touching the water of the river and from time to time see it lifted to let ships pass under it, but to keep the costs within reasonable margins, it is necessary to make it an attraction if the city wishes to save it from demolition.

24 - Extended Willemsbrug

The Willemsbrug is extended over the Koningshaven to the Oranjeboom boulevard by means of a lifting suspension bridge, that takes its formal expression from the a I ready existing bridge, so it will become a real bridge from one side of the water to the other and make the Noordereiland look like an island.

25 - Leisure Quay

The leisure quay is a zone between the Stieltjesstraat and the building strip running from the Roentgenstraat over the entrepothaven, Binnenhaven and Spoorweghaven to the Rijnhaven. It is a clearly defined space to become the new quayside for Rotterdam, a quay filled with all kinds of leisure facilities and activities connecting the two main north-south arteries (running over the new bridge and the extended Willemsbrug) through the city.

26 - The Five Continents Manege

The old entrepot 'De VijfWerelddelen' will be turned into a riding school, a center for equestrian sports, with interior arenas, stables, paddocks etc., and from here there will be bridle pathsthrough the Oranjeboom parkand places for horse shows, cavalcades, three-day events and show jumping.

27 - Oranjeboom Boulevard

The Oranjeboom boulevard running from the extended Willemsbrug to the Stadionweg and through the Oranjeboom park, will beoneof the main north-south connections of the traffic system within the city.

28 - Evergreen Screens

The evergreen screens are 15m. high stainless steel mesh screens grown with ivy and other plants that act as green facades along the Oranjeboom boulevard giving it an extra deep perspective and heightening the moment of confrontation with the river and the skyline at the end of it. Further these screens function as noise barriers and fences to the park and the buildings.

29 - Oranjeboom Park

The Oranjeboom park is a park strip, stretching from the leisure quay via the Mallegat park to the Feyenoord stadium, equipped with all kinds of attractions (all kinds of gardens, from sculpture gardens to botanical gardens, but also fountains, terraces etc.) that one transgresses on the different linear tracks during a horse ride, a walk, a cycle ride, or while playing golf on the golf line. At the Mallegat park the park strip makes contact again with the river and becomes a waterfront park with piers for small boats and yachts, a water plane airport with control tower, and facilities for all sorts of aquatic sports.