Rising 30 metres above street level, MVRDV’s Rotterdam Rooftop Walk installation gives pedestrians a new perspective on the Dutch city. Designed for Rotterdam Rooftop Days, the aerial bridge takes visitors through the city’s diverse roofscape, from department stores to government buildings. Winy Maas, a founding partner at MVRDV, explains that the project is a sequel to their 2006 Stairs to Kriterion project, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of Rotterdam’s reconstruction and brought almost 370,000 visitors to the city.
For the Stairs to Kriterion, MVRDV installed temporary scaffolding to allow visitors access to the top of the Groot Handelsgebouw, which was one of the first buildings to be erected in Rotterdam following the Second World War. Built to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the reconstruction of the city, the 180-step installation brought visitors to an observation deck and a venue for events and film screenings. The project was intended as a first step to creating a new network of public rooftop spaces for the city.
The Rotterdam Rooftop Walk is a temporary, bright orange walkway that builds on MRVDV’s concept for their Stairs to Kriterion project by creating a larger and more developed second ground plane for the city. The walk begins with a stair that rises up along the side of Rotterdam’s World Trade Centre and snakes through the urban roofscape to the Bijenkorf department store. The Rotterdam Rooftop Walk also bridges over Coolsingel, one of the city’s most recognizable avenues.
Unlike other structures that are created to offer views of a cityscape, MVRDV’s Rotterdam Rooftop Walk directs visitors’ attention not downward but to the roofs directly surrounding the walk. The project prompts visitors to consider urban issues — such as the housing crisis and climate change — and suggests that the 18.5 square metres of flat roofs along the walk could potentially be the best strata on which to design solutions to these urgent problems.
The landscape architecture firm LOLA has created a series of green spaces along the walkway. Each of these areas aims to give an indication of how rooftops can be used to add vegetation, create water storage and produce clean energy in even the most urban of spaces. In addition to these test cases are a number of installations and exhibitions designed by local artists, architects and designers, which contribute to making the Rotterdam Rooftop Walk a vibrant cultural space. Looking into the future, Winy Mass would like to create a project that iterates on this one and begins fulfilling the potential it points out: “We should not only occupy our roofs and make them greener but also connect them so that we can offer Rotterdammers a new rooftop park!”
With the Rotterdam Rooftop Walk, MVRDV suggests that the city’s roofs may hold the key to addressing urgent urban crises.