ROTTERDAM – Last year, the municipal offices of Rotterdam began to move into their new home, currently one of the largest buildings in the Netherlands. OMA’s protean assemblage of high-rises has assumed a decidedly unified and self-referencing interior theme for this government facility, occupying 33 floors in the middle of the structure. Though OMA already envisioned the city hall as itself a ‘vertical city’, the design team – a collaboration between studios GROUP A, Makkink & Bey and Roukens + Van Gils – have seemingly held back nothing in applying this concept to an entire symbolic metropolis.
Consulting the team’s ‘Metro Map’ at any floor – ‘neighbourhood’, they insist – you will probably notice first their double-height ‘city centre’ at the 22nd floor. This area, marking the offset break between each tower’s lower and upper half, yet intends to connect with the actual city below by serving as the main reception. Beyond café and dining space, both open and curtained – with wide, placid views over the Nieuwe Maas – a library offers literature exclusively about Rotterdam.
From the centre, every other floor in either direction serves as a ‘park’ or ‘square’, each given a unique name by native poet Rien Vroegindeweij. Each of these levels is also cast in a different colour scheme from the neutral palette of standard floors, exuding what the team describe as the dynamic but ‘rugged and no-nonsense Rotterdam mentality’. Chairs, largely recycled, have been reupholstered with niftily stylised maps of the city, to furnish meeting rooms that don the cosy identity of ‘living rooms’ – at least in name, like everything else.
But how is the ‘nightlife’ of this city? Is the pension office the ‘cemetery’? These, and many other questions for our proverbial ‘town planning’, would be irrelevant to their stated objective of creating an environment that emphasises the idea of ‘always being busy going somewhere’. It’s not Synecdoche Rotterdam, after all, but one can perhaps applaud the effort to help its denizens pretend their actions have significance.