Once upon a time, deer frolicked on the stretch between Rotterdam Central Station and De Doelen. Deer? Yes, deer. Smack in the centre of Rotterdam was an honest-to-goodness deer park. These days, you’ve got to head to the Kralingse Bos to spot any of those. But in the 1970s and 80s, the expansively broad Weena heading towards Hofplein had space aplenty for a whole herd of adorable Bambis, as well as for a park on the Weena – colloquially christened Worstbos in honour of alderman Jan Worst – which was developed after construction of the country’s first metro line, to Rotterdam-Zuid.
But that’s not all we had once that’s lost now. Besides green, there was blue. Water. Small fountains where neighbours could congregate and dip their toes in summer. I used to stroll my daughter Robin over to Schouwburgplein, which had charming fountains splashing clean water. She had floaties to paddle around in while I sat on the side and chatted with neighbours. Back then, the city centre was still green and some more blue than it does now, but in the decades since every planted patch has been carpeted with shiny high-rises.
The result of this building frenzy is that now it’s too hot in summer and the centre has insufficient drainage capacity to cope with heavy downpours. But there’s something else that’s odd. Because aren’t there any children living in Rotterdam Central District anymore? Apart from the odd hipster family, RCD has far too few couples with kids. Then again, where could you take kids to safely splash or play outside these days? There’s only the playground at the far end of Weena.
Luckily though, we’ve got young landscape architect Linde Elsinga of Echo Urban Design, based in the Groothandelsgebouw, who’s on the RCD Climate Team and has taken up the gauntlet to reintroduce plants and water to create a pleasant living environment. She’s certainly got her work cut out for her, but she’s got my support. After all, with all the residential
buildings slated to go up in and around RCD, ‘tree alderman’ Bert Wijbenga’s (VVD party) plans to green Hofplein and the creation of Hofbogenpark won’t be enough. Besides the chirping of birds and the rustling of trees, a green/blue urban centre also needs to ring with the sounds of children playing. I say, give them a deer park!
Eduard Voorn is a freelance journalist with a focus on economics, and first and foremost a Rotterdammer. He lives in the Little Volendam area on the outskirts of Rotterdam Centre District, has breakfast at Op Het Dak, eats his pizza at Bird, raises a pint at Biergarten, gets his caffeine fix at Lebkov and catches the latest flicks in Pathé Schouwburgplein. His kids were born in the now-famous Mecanoo architectural firm’s first project on Kruisplein.