Vintage Postcards of Rotterdam in the Twenties

This blog post is made for growth. A few years ago I produced a series of artificially aged postcards of Rotterdam, seemingly from a bygone era but with contemporary landmarks such as the Markthal, Central Station and Erasmus Bridge. In the meantime, a new generation of architectural highlights is under construction or just completed and that called for a new series of vintage postcards.

There are still fences, scaffolding, site huts or other disfiguring elements around a number of those projects, so I’ll have to wait for the right time to strike. I will place the new additions to the series on this page as soon as I have dug them up from Photoshop’s aging bath; the collection will therefore gradually grow in the coming years.

Fenix and the Whoremonger

These new old postcards are usually most successful when they contain both old and new elements, because in that case the alienating effect is the strongest. That condition has been taken care of at Fenix ​​1 in Katendrecht, a monumental hundred-year-old warehouse that was topped with a spectacular residential building to a design by Mei Architects. That addition looks, especially on this postcard, as if it has been there for much longer than a few years. In the warehouse itself is room for retail and hospitality (the Fenix ​​Food Factory) and culture (Conny Janssen Danst and Codarts)

In the foreground we see Rijnhaven harbour and Rijnhaven bridge. The latter, nicknamed the Whoremonger as a reference to the illustrious past of Katendrecht, dates from 2012 and looks unmistakably 21st century, but is by no means out of place in this quasi-historical scene.

Artificially aged postcard of the renovated and extended Fenix Warehouse in Rotterdam Katendrecht with in the foreground Rijnhaven harbour and Rijnhaven Bridge, nicknamed the Whore Runner
Warehouse, bridge and harbour

Forum Rotterdam

It is not everyone’s favorite recent project, Forum Rotterdam. And to be honest: I would also have preferred to see the giant cube that my former employer OMA presented for this location in 2008. Apparently, that plan faced some headwinds from the zeitgeist because over the years it was steadily cut back until there was nothing left but patching up the existing buildings and filling in the remaining space with a Primark store.

On the other hand: the monumental bank building on Coolsingel, including the Donner bookshop, has been beautifully renovated. And about that residential tower, with its hanging balconies, formerly the office colossus of ABN Amro: you may not think it’s very pretty but you should have seen it before the make-over.

Artificially aged vintage postcard in style of the 1950's, with Coolsingel boulvard, Koopgoot shopping mall and Forum Rotterdam
Forum and Coolsingel

The Terraced Tower

Don’t laugh, I didn’t come up with that name. Is it correct English, The Terraced Tower? Is to terrace really a verb? In the Rotterdam vernacular, fond of nicknames, I’ve already heard alternatives such as the Newspaper Bin or the Stack of Pallets.

I have much less criticism about the architecture. In fact, I think that looking really good. Typical architecture from the twenties, with lots of glass and wood, striking horizontal lines and carefully worked out irregularities.

The residential tower, with shops and restaurants on the ground floor, was designed by OZ architects from Amsterdam. Unlike many other recent new buildings in Rotterdam, no former colleagues of mine have worked on this project, but there is still a link with my architectural past. Until 1995, Office for Metropolitan Architecture, the office of Rem Koolhaas, was located here, in an office building designed by Herman Bakker in the 1960s. So when it was demolished a few years ago, nothing less than a piece of architectural history was demolished. But it’s nice that the contours of that building are visible in this new tower.

Artificially aged photograph, transormed into a vintage postcard, showing the new residential building The Terraced Tower on Boompjes boulevard in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
The Terraced Tower, Boompjes boulevard and the Nieuwe Maas river

Coming soon

The following projects are on my to-do list:

  • Little C.
  • Coolsingel (when all the pavement stones have been laid)
  • The Depot, or the collection building of the Boymans museum
  • Residential towers The Muse, Casanova and OurDomain at the Wijnhaven
  • Boompjes and the Terraced Tower
  • The new pavilion of the Maritime Museum at the Leuvehaven
  • The Zalmhaven tower

In the meantime, here is once again the earlier series of old postcards:

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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