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I attend the Rotterdam Film Festival every year, and I’ve taken that step many times… up a few inches from the street to the plaza that the Pathe theater complex is on. And now this architectural fillip is celebrated at MOMA and reviewed in the New York Times.

From the review by Nicolai Ouroussoff of the exhibition “Groundswell,” an architectural survey of “two decades of landscape design”:

“…the most innovative may be the Schouwburgplein (1996) in Rotterdam, a plaza by West 8 Urban Design and Landscape that draws inspiration from the eeriness of the city’s industrial waterfront. The plaza’s surface, raised slightly above the surrounding streets, is paved in a pattern of wood slats, perforated metal and heavy-duty rubber. A row of mechanical “light masts,” inspired by the massive cranes along Rotterdam’s piers, line the project’s northern edge, their muscular steel arms gliding up and down like oil pumps.

By raising the plaza just above street level, the designers enabled light to filter down into levels of parking underneath the plaza — a further reminder that you are not on solid ground. But the plaza is also a stage for reflecting on Rotterdam’s gritty history. A major port in World War II, the city was blasted by British and American bombers during the German occupation. Its industrial piers, modern housing blocks and generic shopping strips are emblematic of the postwar city.”

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