From Tweet to Rooftop Park: the High Line Baan
Couldn’t those flat roofs of the shops on Lijnbaan, the pedestrian street in downtown Rotterdam, be turned into a roofpark? I made an artist impression and investigated the pros and cons of such a High Line Baan.
It started with a tweet. At 11 July, I placed a photo on my Twitter account, made during the Rotterdam Rooftop Days. It showed the city’s main shopping street, Lijnbaan, seen in southern direction from one of the adjacent apartment buidings. A remarkable strip of low-rise buildings in a city that’s proud to be the Netherlands’ highrise capital. With a roofscape of chimneys, roof lights and machinery, which you might call interesting, but certainly not pretty. I added: it should be possible to turn those roofs into a nice park.
Several fellow Twitter users responded in agreement. @Amsterdirk suggested a brilliant name for the idea: The High Line Baan. Yes, even in Amsterdam, some people have good ideas:
For those of you who don’t know: The High Line is a popular city park in New York which was created on an old railway viaduct. An example closer to Rotterdam is the Promenade Plantée in Paris. And recently a similar park opened in Seoul: the Seoullo 7017 Skygarden, designed by a Rotterdam office: my esteemed former colleagues at MVRDV.
The High Line Baan… presented with such a great name I could not stand the temptation to elaborate the idea into an artist impression. Making artist impressions is, after all, still the core business of 3Develop.
For several years, the municipality of Rotterdam has been pursuing a policy to stimulate the construction of green roofs. Green roofs have a number of interesting advantages. They ensure that rainwater is drained slowly and doesn’t overload the sewing system in the case of heavy showers. Furthermore, they clean the air and provide better insulation than traditional flat roofs. And on top of it all, they just look better.
The High Line Baan fits well with that policy. In fact, there are few places in the city where the creation of green roofs is as effective as on Lijnbaan. Because the roofs of the shops are so low compared to the high-rise buildings around them, they are looked at from many surrounding homes and offices. And because there are many roofs on the same level, they are easy to connect into a fairly large park. Moreover, that park is easily accessible by stairs because seven meters have to be bridged from street level.
There are, of course, a number of possible objections. Otherwise, the whole plan would have been carried out a long time ago.
To start with: Lijnbaan, in 1953 the first car-free shopping street in the world, is national heritage. The question is whether the construction of a roof park would conflict with that monument status. I tend to think it wouldn’t; it is an addition that, in theory, can also be undone. And that, in my opinion, does not harm the monumental quality. But, okay, I’m not the National Trust.
The fragmentation of ownership may be another issue. The different awnings on the facade are an indication that the Lijnbaan is not owned by a single company or institution. And if not all owners join the project, resulting in inaccessible areas of tarmac between the greenery, that does not really help the idea.
There are also some technical issues. For example: is the construction strong enough to carry those big flower pots? And: what do we do with the aforementioned chimneys, roof lights and machinery? But technical issues are there to be solved, right?
The fact that the creation of a High Line in Rotterdam is not that easy, is shown by the (lack of) developments with the former Hofplein railway line. There have long been plans for a roof park on that railroad viaduct in Rotterdam North, which is no longer being used since the construction of the metro line under the neighbourhood of Blijdorp. But so far only the roof of the former Hofplein station has been converted and that has only very limited access to the public.
On the other hand, if both the High Line Baan and the Hofplein Park can one day be realized, those two can be linked by a small extension of Luchtsingel, creating a green route from the city center to the A20 ring road!
So… is it a good idea, this High Line Baan? Give your opinion on the comments below!
In May 2021, I got a request from the Rooftop Days Foundation for the use of my artist impression of the High Line Baan in one of the Lijnbaan display cases, to support their plea for greening the roofs. Of course I gave them permission, if only because this way it goes full circle; after all, I had the original idea during a Rooftop Day.