Culture / Design

Rotterdam Staircase Honors Wartime Reconstruction

Some 75 years after being leveled in World War 2 damages, the Dutch city aims to commemorate how far they’ve come

May 23, 2016 | By Staff Writer

Standing tall in the heart of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is a 29-meter staircase built to head up to the roof of the Groot Handelsgebouw building, leading to a view spanning over the city. This staircase is made entirely from scaffolding, and seems almost like a diagonal board leaning on the side, perched on crossing lines. All this was put together by Dutch design firm MVRDV to celebrate 75 years of post-war reconstruction.

The city was heavily bombarded during World War II by Germany – leading to the Dutch surrender to prevent further attacks. These days, Rotterdam has built itself up as one of the largest ports in the world and a leading light of contemporary architecture. It is the architecture bit that involves the new staircase.


At the top, visitors can observe the sights from a temporary observation deck. They can also enjoy a new line-up of refreshment facilities and find out more about the development from a rooftop information center. The location was even home to the former Kriterion Cinema – a popular haunt in the 1960s. It’s reopening specially for the event with movies, debates, and performances on show.

“Back in the day, I would look out over Rotterdam after the film in Kriterion. It offered a fantastic view of the city,” explains Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV. “The roof of the Groot Handelsgebouw, one of the best buildings from the reconstruction period in the Netherlands, deserves to be used as a basis for the next re-invention of Rotterdam. With these stairs, we want to offer this suggestion and celebrate at the same time.”


Maas hopes that the stairs will become a permanent fixture, noting that it “must create more liveliness on the roof and show a second layer in the next step of urban development of Rotterdam”. It’ll also be another monument to showcase how far humanity has come from the turmoil of the war period, and the staggering costs of it.

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