The Only Right Place for the Bijenkorf Sculpture

Exactly 75 years after the old Bijenkorf department store in Rotterdam was hit by a German bomb, Dudok’s masterpiece is back in the spotlight. It’s a tragic story: the most beautiful Dutch building of the twentieth century was badly damaged in the bombing on May 14, 1940, partially patched up but finally demolished in 1960. I wrote earlier about this forgotten monument on the 3Develop website and in a blog article.

City of Light

A very important role in the renewed interest is played by the documentary City of Light, the forgotten Bijenkorf of Rotterdam, made by journalist Peter Veenendaal. The movie shows lots of unique historical footage as well as the artist impressions that I made of the building.

Following the documentary also the issue of the facade sculpture is reviving. Because there is still one part of the Bijenkorf which has been preserved: the sculpture on the corner of the building which was attached to the facade, five meters above the sidewalk. The stone, however, has been in a parking lot next to the Bijenkorf warehouse for years, on an industrial estate in Woerden where nobody ever sees it. Jan Sluijter posted pictures of the deplorable situation at his Bijenkorf Flickr page (scroll down to the bottom of the page)

Scouting locations

There has been talk of the return of the sculpture to Rotterdam but the municipality doesn’t seem to be able to find a good location. An opinion piece on Bogue proposed to take away the work of Naum Gabo next the new Bijenkorf, nicknamed The Thing, and replace it by the old sculpture. But that is not a solution: The Thing should stay there, though some maintenance would not hurt.

And it’s so simple. There is only one logical place for the relocation of the sculpture: the original spot at the end of Coolsingel. This is how it might look:

Facade sculpture of the old Bijenkorf department store

Steel construction

The steel structure not only keeps the sculpture in its position but also suggests the contours of the old Bijenkorf. I didn’t do any calculations on the structure; I leave that to the experts. But it does not look impossible, does it?

By the way, I believe Dudok’s Bijenkorf should be rebuilt in its entirety. But that’s a long term project.

UPDATE: Open Rotterdam

On May 20th was, I was interviewed about my proposal by the magazine 010NU of OPEN Rotterdam TV. I showed them the location, next to the pavilions with McDonalds and the tourist office, where the old Bijenkorf was located.

Bart-Joost van Rij of political party Leefbaar Rotterdam, who was also interviewed, was not immediately convinced. He suggested to find a place in the future Forum building, also known as the Koolhaas Cube. But in return I am not convinced about that idea, if only because it’s not certain that building will ever be built.


A Visit to the Bijenkorf Sculpture

The New Coolsingel: More Space for Pedestrians and for Dudok

The Return of the Bijenkorf Sculpture: an update

Frans Blok

My work explores the border regions of photography, painting and computer visuals. With my company 3Develop I do work in commission but I use the same techniques, skills and software to make free work. I am originally an architect and I live in Rotterdam; for that reason the architecture of that city is a major (but not the only) source of inspiration. But also travel to countries like Iceland and Britain, or walks in the Netherlands, provide much material. Seeing and showing quality and beauty, that is what my work is about.

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