In the late 1990s, the Dutch government decided to transform six major railway stations into premium international public transport hubs connected to the European high-speed rail network. The aim was twofold: to improve public transport within and between cities; and to boost the urban quality of the station precincts. Rotterdam Central Station was the first of these projects to be completed.
TRANSPORTATION HUB – The old railway station, designed by Sybold van Ravesteyn and built in 1957, has made way for a new and larger station to accommodate the growing numbers of travelers, and to reorganize the confluence of all types of traffic in front of the station: pedestrians, cyclists, trams, buses, and taxis. The busy motorized traffic on the Weena was redirected through a short underpass, while buses and trams were relocated to the east and west of the arrival hall. These interventions created space for a large plaza in front of the main entrance. The red stone surface of the plaza continues into the station and the underground passage, resulting in a seamless transition.
RAILWAY CATHEDRAL – Such a station plaza was not part of the original brief. Initially, the station concourse was to have taken up a much larger portion of the forecourt, and roofing over all the tracks was not envisaged. Inspired by the “railway cathedrals” in Madrid and New York, however, the design team proposed to extend the concourse beneath the tracks and to extend the roof over the tracks, thereby ensuring that travelers waiting on the platforms were comfortably sheltered. Large expanses of glass over the platforms draw daylight down to the passenger tunnel that runs beneath the tracks. Moreover, the underpass has been widened to make space for shops and restaurants, turning it into an integral part of the station concourse.
TWO SIDES – Previously a barrier in the city, the station now forms a connecting element in the urban fabric. On the north side, the station is modest in appearance, reflecting the character of the nineteenth-century Provenierswijk area. On the city center side, the station makes a grand gesture. The generous dimensions of the concourse, and the warm finishes in wood and red natural stone, lend the complex an appearance and spatial quality that befits a destination for high-speed international trains. The tip of the iconic roof, completely clad in stainless steel, points toward the heart of Rotterdam.
* Delivered by Team CS, a collaboration between Benthem Crouwel Architects, Meyer and Van Schooten and West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture.