The strangest thing I ever saw while travellingThe Kubuswoningen in Rotterdam

20th April
Rating: (1 votes)
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Two facts about Rotterdam are: it has one of the world's biggest ports and it was bombed during the war. I did a harbour tour and went into one of the more unusual houses

I could see the diamond-shaped yellow façade of the cube houses as we were walking up the road. Getting closer I saw that the buildings were tilted forward, allowing the occupants to look down on the road straddled by the houses. It reminded me of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, where yellow buildings are situated on a bridge over the river Arno and later learned that this was the idea behind the design. I wondered what it would be like to live in a house like that.  

We went to Rotterdam by train from The Hague and arrived at the new Centraal Station which opened in 2014. The main hall is a beautiful airy space, with the wood-clad ceiling shaped like a ship reminding the traveller of the maritime history and the importance of the port today. From there we set off to explore the city.

Our first stop was the harbour cruise, a 90 minutes boat trip. There has been a port in Rotterdam since the fourteenth Century. The Pilgrim Fathers left from there in the 1600s on their journey to the New World. We sailed passed the juice terminal, where imported and exported juice is stored and despatched. Who knew that there is a specific juice terminal? 
Next came the container port. Endless rows of containers stacked up on the shore: red ones from China, white ones with faded lettering, blue, green, black ones. Rusty containers that had not been used for a long time. Each of them will have been round the world several times and would have a story to tell. Now they wait for their next consignment to be shipped. On this beautiful sunny but cold Saturday morning nothing happened in this port: no people, no cars, no ships, the gantries standing idle. The main port activity takes place in Europoort, 25 kilometer up river towards the North Sea. 

Warming ourselves up with coffee and traditional Dutch 'Appeltaart met slagroom' (apple cake with whipped cream) we had a good view of the Erasmus bridge and the NHOW building, a collection of asymmetrica

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lly assembled blocks. This was the first of the unusual buildings in Rotterdam we had planned to see. The city was bombed during the second World War by the Luftwaffe and the Allied Forces. Since then a great deal of building activity has taken place, which still continues today. The Kubuswoningen (Cube houses), Potlood (pencil), and Markthal are the most famous. 

The 38 Cube houses were built in 1984. Fortunately for nosey tourists like me there is a Kijkkubus, a show cube, letting visitors have a look inside one of the buildings. The steep external stairs took us to the front door which opened into the living room, an oddly shaped space arranged round the central post that

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holds the building up. The walls are tilted 54.7 degrees, leaving me slightly disorientated. It allows the perfect view on the road below when doing the washing up in the small kitchen. All rooms had specially designed furniture to accommodate the tilted walls, concealing a great deal of wasted space.  
The house has three mainly open plan floors, with the three panes of the cube converging to a point on the top floor. The top room felt like a conservatory in the attic, with the sun streaming in through the top windows. After a thorough exploration of the cube I came to the conclusion it was not for me: too much wasted space, too disorientating, too quirky, too strange. 

Next to the Cube houses is the Pencil, a pencil shaped apartment building. Across the square is the Markthal, an indoor market with a big curved roo

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f. The market hall is surrounded by apartments on both sides, with rooms covering the roof. Each apartment has windows overlooking the market. Unfortunately there was no show house for us to have a look at. 

Rotterdam is an interesting city. There is history, trade and unusual architecture, designed for urban living. The Kubuswoningen were the strangest place I have been to. Great to visit, but I would not like to live in them.    

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