A New Skyline for Rotterdam

In 2014, Rotterdam Festivals organized a design competition for a graphical representation of the city’s famous skyline. The organization used such a skyline as its logo, but in that year, three new icons were added in quick succession: Central Station, Markthal and De Rotterdam building. That called for a new skyline logo, hence the competition. The prize money was… nothing at all. Nothing? Indeed, it was all about the honor. Actually, as a designer you shouldn’t want to participate in that, but hey, it was for a good cause. And I had a good idea….

The colors of the skyline

My design was inspired by the many colors that can be found in the skyline: apart from bright yellow, the entire spectrum is represented. I have arranged the different elements loosely from north to south: 28 in total. Of course, difficult choices had to be made: which ones should be in and which ones should be left out. Ultimately, the following buildings and bridges made the shortlist: from left to right the Central Station, Calypso, the Markthal, the Karel Doorman, the City Hall, the Cube Houses, Beurs WTC, the Pencil, Fortis, the Laurenskerk, Robeco, the Red Apple, the Coolse Poort, the Shipping and Transport College, the White House, the Euromast, the Brienenoord Bridge, the Willems Bridge, the Erasmus Bridge, the Hef, the Maastoren, the Rotterdam, Las Palmas, New Orleans, Hotel New York, Montevideo and the KPN building. And a construction crane is undauntedly building new iconic structures.

The colorful skyline of Rotterdam
My competition entry

Second Life

I understand that the jury had hard time choosing a winner. Unfortunately, they didn’t pick my design. But I thought my skyline was too beautiful to be stored in the archive, so I gave it a second life. And in fact, over the years a series of new lives followed, such as wall decoration, facade cladding, sportswear, birth announcements and more.

The original design has undergone numerous changes and variants. Including the version below, with the additions of a sky (after all, what is a skyline without a sky?) as well as two more Rotterdam icons: the Nieuwe Maas and the port.

The colorful skyline of Rotterdam, with sky, river and port
The Rotterdam skyline and the port

Planet Rotterdam

It was a small step towards the transformation of “my” skyline into a spherical panorama. I have made a lot of those small planets over the years, by merging fifteen photos. So I turned my skyline design into a spherical panorama, in which all buildings and bridges are reflected in the lifeline of the city: the river Nieuwe Maas. With a number of additions that were still missing in the original design: the Delftse Poort building (formerly Nationale Nederlanden), the Erasmus Medical Center, a harbor crane and a cruise ship.

Graphical representation of the colorful Rotterdam skyline as a spherical panorama, with four bridges and iconic buildings like the Central Station, the Market Hall, the Euromast and the Rotterdam building,reflecting in the river Nieuwe Maas
Rotterdam, a world in itself

The Marathon

At the beginning of 2016 I was asked by Marco Vink, if he could use my skyline design on a shirt for a Facebook group of marathon runners. I am more of a hiker myself but I really admire people who can run for 42 kilometers and 195 meters. So I made a black and white version of my design especially for this occasion, because it better matched the Rotterdamish green color scheme of the shirt. And as a result on April 10, 2016, more than a hundred runners in that shirt completed the course. As we say in Rotterdam: awesome!

Graphical representation of the Rotterdam skyline with the most important buildings and bridges, on a shirt made on the occasion of the 2016 edition of the Rotterdam marathon.
Rotterdam skyline marathon shirt 2016

The Kuip

The shirt became a popular collector’s item. In the years that followed, a new version appeared on the occasion of every Rotterdam Marathon. For the 2017 edition, I added two “southern” landmarks that are along the marathon’s route: a cruise ship docked at Wilhelminapier and of course the Kuip, the stadium of football club Feyenoord.

Graphical representation of the Rotterdam skyline, with the most important buildings, bridges and other landmarks, printed on a green t-shirt
Rotterdam skyline marathon shirt 2017

New landmarks

There is always a lot of building going on in Rotterdam. Usually those new buildings don’t have a big impact on the image of the skyline, but in 2021 two new landmarks will be completed that I cannot ignore. First of all, there is the Zalmhaven tower, which with its 215 meters will not only be the tallest building in Rotterdam, but even in the entire Benelux. Much lower, only 40 meters high, is the Boymans museum depot, designed by MVRDV. But this flower pot with its mirrored facade, spectacular atrium and birch forest on the roof is such an eye-catcher that a spot on the skyline image is certainly in order.

A graphical representation of the Rotterdam skyline with all important buildings, bridges and other icons, in four different color schemes
The 2021 edition

Skyline XL

By request of a client in Schiedam, I made an XL version of the skyline in sepia tones, printed on glass as a back wall in a new kitchen. Due to the dimensions of the surface to be printed, wide and low, some elements had to be added. But they were quickly found: the Schiedam windmills, the Lee Towers, the Erasmus MC, the metro, Ahoy, the Twin Towers of Katendrecht, the Ferris wheel of Speelstad Rotterdam and a number of cranes, chimneys, oil tanks and windmills in the harbor.

Extra large edition of the Rotterdam Skyline in sepia, with Euromast, Erasmus Bridge and more well known buildings, bridges and other landmarks
Rotterdam skyline XL

The saga continues…

Elsewhere on this blog you can read more about the developments around the Skyline design:

The Rotterdam Skyline Knitting Pattern (the woolen version)

The Secret Skyline of Rotterdam (on the facade of the Pathé cinema on Schouwburgplein)

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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17 Responses

  1. DAVID SKINNER says:


    I ran in the Rotterdam marathon on Sunday and noticed quite a few people in these great green shirts, saying Rotterdam marathon on them.

    How can I buy one please? Thank you. David Skinner.

    • Frans Blok says:

      Hello David,

      Sorry for the late reply. This t-shirt was made for members of the Facebook group of Rotterdam marathon runners. It sold out long ago. There may be a 2018 edition but I can’t give you any details; in fact, I only made the skyline drawing on the shirt. Kindest regards,

      Frans Blok

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