MVRDV - A second layer above the city centre: Rotterdam Rooftop Walk will elevate public understanding of rooftop potential

A second layer above the city centre: Rotterdam Rooftop Walk will elevate public understanding of rooftop potential


From May 26 to June 24 2022, Rotterdam residents and tourists will be able to take a spectacular walk over the rooftops of the city centre. The highlight of the route, an aerial bridge from the roof of The Bijenkorf department store to the roof of the World Trade Centre plinth, will provide spectacular views of the Coolsingel, one of the main streets of Rotterdam. An initiative of Rotterdam Rooftop Days,  the Rotterdam Rooftop Walk was designed by MVRDV in collaboration with Rotterdam Rooftop Days. The temporary installation gives the public access to roofs that are normally closed for a month, yet it also has a symbolic purpose: the goal of Rotterdam Rooftop Days is to make people more aware of the potential of rooftops and the need to use them more effectively.

Rotterdam has been looking upwards with its architecture for years – from the Euromast that was built in 1960, to cable cars and observation towers for events such as Rotterdam Rooftop Days, elevation plays an important role in the city. Being largely rebuilt after WWII, the centre of Rotterdam has vast areas of flat rooftops, however these roofs are unexplored territory, rarely used by people and often barely furnished. MVRDV and Rotterdam Rooftop Days aim to stimulate the use of these roofs and show how roofs can contribute to a healthy, lively, and attractive city. Roofs can produce energy and food, store water, and allow people to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a while.

Earlier this year, MVRDV, Rotterdam Rooftop Days, and the Municipality of Rotterdam published a rooftop catalogue with more than 130 ideas for making better use of roofs, from fitness parks to cemeteries. The Rotterdam Rooftop Walk goes a step further, giving companies and non-profit organisations the opportunity to show innovations related to greening, energy generation, and water storage. It also shows how a roof can be transformed into an attractive public space such as a terrace or a park.

Rotterdam Rooftop Walk builds on a tradition of large crowd-pleasers at height. One of these is the Stairs to Kriterion, a temporary staircase leading to the roof of the Groothandelsgebouw that MVRDV realised in 2016. Designed in the context of Rotterdam’s celebration of 75 years of reconstruction since WWII, in four weeks the Stairs to Kriterion attracted more than 365,000 visitors. “After the Stairs, we wanted a follow-up with stairs and bridges so that a larger collection of rooftops is accessible, making it possible to imagine a second layer, a superstructure in the city above the rooftops,” says MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas. “In fact, we already intended to do it during the Eurovision Song Contest, and then celebrate the winners in an opera-like arrangement. That plan couldn’t go ahead because of the coronavirus, but luckily it can happen now! I think it's great that this project will be realised, thanks to Rotterdam Rooftop Days and the city.”

The route of the Rotterdam Rooftop Walk begins alongside the Koopgoot, the sunken shopping street that crosses underneath the Coolsingel. Staircases lead visitors up through a series of terraces to the rooftop of the WTC plinth, then over the Coolsingel to the roof of the Bijenkorf. Here visitors will find the educational displays and demonstrations, and they will also be able to access the three open patios on the top of the building designed by Marcel Breuer in 1957. Finally the route leads across to the roof of the Bijenkorf parking garage, from where a staircase will take visitors back to ground level. Combined with the Lijnbaan and Koopgoot, the route forms a loop, marked in bright orange to entice people upwards.

With this project, the organizers and the municipality of Rotterdam aim to show how current problems such as heat stress and flooding can be addressed. It can also offer a response to an increasingly crowded city, where public space is becoming increasingly scarce, by adding an extra layer of public space amid the taller buildings, hovering above the 1950s reconstruction. Densifying the city by adding new functions vertically can also prevent the city from expanding into the green areas on its outskirts.

Rotterdam Rooftop Days will realise the Rotterdam Rooftop Walk during Rotterdam Architecture Month, when the innovation and quality in Rotterdam’s architecture is celebrated through festivals, exhibitions, and lectures. MVRDV designed the Rotterdam Rooftop Walk together with Rotterdam Rooftop Days.