poor rotterdam and modernity 6 - Neapolis — A project by Gyz La

poor rotterdam
and modernity
Burger King
Seen on the Lijnbaan, from the west. At the left position by the former Burger King.
photo: Lex de Herder, 1991
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Dancing Bristol and a horse.
Hofplein seen from the west.
photo: Lex de Herder, 1971
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Beauty that is going to disappear.
‘The Newspaper-photographer took a beautiful picture of houses that will soon be demolished.’
Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad, October 18th, 1930
St. Lawrence church
1000 years Rotterdam
flyer: Museum Rotterdam, 2012
image (front): Hajo Piebenga and
Abraham Storck (1676)
In Rotterdam there were also many alleyways at the
time, which needed a lot of work done. I have always
been fascinated by my grandmother’s stories and curious about the Rotterdam before the bombing. Especially
the interbellum period, when Rotterdam was known as
the most international city in The Netherlands. Recently
I have started to look more into the time period before
that. Parading around Naples, daydreaming, it reminded me of the city I have been searching for a long time.
One that is in my genes, even if I only know it from
stories, books, and photographs of the old Rotterdam.
In Naples, I finally experience the wiped out Rotterdam
of yesteryear. Even though I love the raw, unpolished
Rotterdam of today, where you feel lost at times. Everything has its value, I guess.
Stadhuis & Shell building
Overview from the World Trade Center building.
photo: Lex de Herder, 1987
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Like Naples, Rotterdam was struck by cholera epidemics time and again. From the one in 1833 to an intense
outbreak in 1848 to 1849, killing almost two thousand
residents, to a recurrence in 1853.
Despite cholera, Rotterdam grew, almost doubling
its population to 116.000 in 1870. Because the city was
only allowed to build within its city walls, the many
new residents were forced to live in the city center. This
meant that every open space was filled, while gardens
and courtyards disappeared. The city kept adding on
instead of breaking down and/or improving problematic areas.
Rotterdam alley I
View of an alley in the Broodgang, presumably the Nieuwgang, at the Raamstraat No. 47.
Disappeared at the construction of the new City Hall and post office.
photo: B.H.W. Berssenbrugge, 1908
In 2001 the exhibit Breitner in Rotterdam was on display
at the Netherlands Fotomuseum, during Rotterdam’s
year as Cultural Capital of Europe. George Hendrik
Breitner was born in Rotterdam in 1857 and is mostly
known for his many cityscapes of Amsterdam, where
he lived most his life. However, he photographed many
sights in Rotterdam, especially the lesser neighborhoods
and alleys. These photos did not surface until the late
1990s. As far as I know these photographs were shown
for the first time in the Breitner in Rotterdam exposition
and its namesake catalog. It was not an uncommon subject for photography at the time, and it brought to light
the situation with small, dark houses without sanitation. 1 Hey, where have we heard this before? In short,
a new era was born in Europe.
1 Breitner in Rotterdam, ‘een vuile
stad met een heele boel sleeperswagens’, Hans Rooseboom, Uitgeverij
THOTH, 2001 (p. 13)
Rotterdam alley II
The alley Gang, possibly through the Schiedamsedijk to the Baan.
photo (detail): George Hendrik Breitner, around 1908
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
In 1903, journalist Louis Schotting and socialist Rotterdam councilor Hendrik Spiekman published a series
of articles in the local newspaper, and later these were
published in a booklet by the name Arm Rotterdam
(Poor Rotterdam). This booklet contains heartbreaking
stories about appalling living conditions and was meant
to encourage the city of Rotterdam to start improving
the situation. By shocking readers with these horrible
depictions, they laid a foundation for Rotterdam’s bad
image. Poor Rotterdam reminds me of Matilde Serao’s
Rotterdam alley III
The alley Mosterdsteeg, which ran from the Zandstraat to Westewagenstraat (south of the Raamstraat).
Disappeared at the construction of the new City Hall and post office.
photo: B.H.W. Berssenbrugge, 1908
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Rotterdam alley IV
The alley Mosterdsteeg seen from the Zandstraat, in the foreground a door to a dance hall
with street number 10. Disappeared at the construction of the new City Hall and post office.
photo: B.H.W. Berssenbrugge, 1908
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Rotterdam alley V
In the Blommegang, this alley was in the Raamstraat.
Disappeared at the construction of the new City Hall and post office.
photo: B.H.W. Berssenbrugge, 1908
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
The slums were not in line with the economic prosperity
and (industrial) changes Rotterdam was going through
since the mid-nineteenth century. During this period of
time Rotterdam’s image changed from a (so-called) quiet
merchant town to a noisy, ugly port and transit city. Between 1880 and 1920 the city grew from a population of
160.000 to over half a million. What the Golden Age was
for Amsterdam, the New Waterway was to Rotterdam.
In addition to progress and expansion, it was fashionable
to start sanitizing. New became the doctrine.
Rotterdam alley VI
Children in the Zandstraat and Trouwsteeg on the day of closing of the Zandstraatkwartier. Disappeared at the construction of the new City Hall and post office.
photo: B.H.W. Berssenbrugge, 1 januari 1912
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
After large industrial changes, the city wanted to create
a ‘new’ center west of the old city center at the turn of
the 20 th century: the Coolsingel. This plan became reality after the construction of the ‘centipede’, the railway
viaduct or air track (completed in 1877) through the old
merchant town, and after the New Waterway was constructed to connect the North Sea to Rotterdam (1872).
Railway Viaduct
Under the railway viaduct at the
Binnenrotte (from the southeast).
postcard, 1935
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Zandstraat I
The Zandstraat, seen from the Sint-Laurensstraat (from the south).
Disappeared at the construction of the new City Hall and post office.
postcard, 1910
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Before the Coolsingel was filled up, which was done
between 1913 and 1922, the city started demolishing the Zandstraatkwartier (the old red light district
where my grandmother lived). This is where the new
City Hall and the post office arose. On the two hectares alone where the City Hall and the post office now
stands, there were 631 apartments, 127 warehouses and
35 cafés. It used to be a bustling neighborhood, where
sailors would come to drink, and where famous artists
like Louis and Heintje Davids lived and worked, and
where others like painter Kees van Dongen found their
inspiration. 2
2 vrij naar: Arm Rotterdam.
Hoe het woont! Hoe het leeft!, L.
Schotting en H. Spiekman, 1903,
begeleidende tekst van Sjaak van
der Velden, reprint askant, 2007
(p. 114)
post office
Post office (interior) at the Coolsingel.
photo: C.J.L. Vermeulen, 1932
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
City Hall
Videostill from the film Rotterdam 2040.
Gyz La Rivière, 2013
Gyz is reading Rotterdam
A book by Blaise Cendrars about a great fight in the
Zandstraatkwartier (also known as de Polder).
Cold Turkey Press, 1977
Photo: Emma van Beek, 2014
Goodbye Zandstraatkwartier.
Demolition of buildings between the Zandstraat and Coolsingel-Coolvest
where later the City Hall and post office were established.
photo: unknown, October 26th, 1912
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
It’s Never Too Late to Say Sorry
Elmgreen & Dragset, 2011
photo: Jannes Linders
Collection www.sculptureinternationalrotterdam.nl
Louis Davids
The Raamplein with the monument for Louis Davids among
the Zandstraat where musician Louis Davids was born.
photo: Lex de Herder, 1984
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
In the same year 1903 when Poor Rotterdam was
published, the Health Commission launched a major
investigation into the living conditions in the city. ‘A
thorough statistical and comprehensive research. It was
about time to face the facts. The Health Commission
wasn’t just about the stories (like Poor Rotterdam), but
about an inventory of all one-, two- and three-room
apartments in the city center of Rotterdam. A one-room
apartment mostly had just one bed, and children would
often sleep on the floor. Having your own bathroom
was highly exceptional.’ 3
Time to start sanitation. It was too expensive to
build cheap housing in the center, so the new ground
was to be used for commercial purposes. Because the
harbor kept expanding and new residents kept flocking to the city, many people started living in houses
just outside the city center. These first suburbia’s were
mainly created by factories. You could say it became
fashionable to uplift the working class. See the pictures
and form your own opinion (see next spreads).
3 Stad van formaat, Geschiedenis
van Rotterdam in de negentiende
en twintigste eeuw, Paul van de
Laar, Uitgeverij Waanders, 2000
(p. 267)
The Zandstraatkwartier disappeared, but there were of course many more alleys
in Rotterdam. The Hennepgang before the bombardment on the south side of the
Goudsesingel, between Lange Lijnstraat and Lange Frankenstraat.
photo: B.H.W. Berssenbrugge, 1908
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
The Bellengang, an alley between the Baan
and the Schiedamsedijk (on the background).
photo: N. Werkman, 1937
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Vreewijk (1913 - 1958)
Vreewijk is one of the first garden villages in Rotterdam. With the different designs
between 1913 and 1958 various known architects were involved, such as Berlage and
the office of Grandpré Molière, Verhagen and Kok.
photo: Gyz La Rivière, 2010
Het Witte Dorp (1921 - 1924)
The Brikstraat at the Witte Dorp during sanitation.
photo: Lex de Herder, 1989
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Justus van Effencomplex (1922)
The residential Justus van Effen block by architect Michiel Brinkman is a milestone in the Dutch housing
construction. Photo is taken in the Justus van Effenstraat (in the background the Jan Luykenstraat).
photo: Evert Marinus van Ojen, 1928
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Heijplaat (1915)
The Vestastraat in Tuindorp Heijplaat from the RDM (Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij) by architect H.A.J. Baanders.
postcard, 1919
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Kiefhoek (1928-1930)
The Kiefhoek in the South of Rotterdam by architect J.J.P. Oud
was just like the Witte Dorp in Rotterdam-West a project to
elevate the lower working class with better living conditions.
photo: Emma van Beek, 2013
Het Witte Dorp (1921-1924)
Overview from the Europoint building on the environment of
the (former) Witte Dorp from architect J.J.P. Oud.
photo: Lex de Herder, 1975
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Pieter Langendijkstraat from Van Harenstraat,
towards the Potgieterstraat.
photo: Evert Marinus van Ojen, around 1923 - 1927
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Simultaneously, under Mussolini’s fascist reign in Naples, whole new roads and buildings were arising in the
1920s and 30s. For example the area around the main
post office that is now known as the Carità district. 4
But also the Mostra d’Oltremare district on the outskirts
of the city, which was part of a plan to develop the economy of Southern Italy. To make Mostra succeed, two
new roads were built, as well as a railroad to connect it
to the city. This is an important example of Italian 20 th
century urban planning, and probably the most crucial
to Naples in the past 1000 years.
4 www.naplesldm.com
Palazzo delle Poste
View of Naples with the post office.
photo: Willem van de Poll, 1964
Collection Nationaal Archief / Van de Poll
Palazzo della Casa del Mutilato
The building of the National Association of Soldiers Mutilated and
Invalid from War in Naples. Designed by architect Camillo Guerra
and built between 1938 and 1940.
In Mostra large exhibits inspired by the World’s Fairs
took place, but just one month after the first one opened
in 1940, Italy went to war and Mostra d’Oltremare was
shut down.
In the 50s a large part of the terrain was rebuilt. The
pavilions that were destroyed by the war were replaced
by modernist buildings. Many sports and stadium facilities were also built. To this day it pays off to visit here.
Mostra d’Oltremare lies directly besides the Stadio San
Paolo, Naples’ football stadium, and is now completely
urbanized and part of Naples. In 1954 the World’s Fair
came to Mostra d’Oltremare, and in 2012 the 6 th World
Urban Forum by the UN took place there.
Mostra d’Oltremare
photo: Ghirigori Baumann, 2014 (Flickr)
Mostra d’Oltremare
photo: Cristiana Albero, 2013 (Flickr)
Something similar happened in Rotterdam, where in
1928 a large exhibit Nenijto was organized in Blijdorp,
which was just outside the city at the time. Over 1700
companies took place and about 1.5 million visitors
came. Later on, Blijdorp became a residential neighborhood in Rotterdam. Sadly, the only remnant of this
exhibit is an athletics course by the same name, Nenijto.
Why is that a sad thing? I believe the images of the main
entrance speak for themselves.
Main entrance of the Nederlandsche
Nijverheidstentoonstelling (industry exhibition).
postcard, 1928
image: F. Bach
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
Main entrance of the Nederlandsche
Nijverheidstentoonstelling (industry exhibition).
postcard, 1928
Collection Stadsarchief Rotterdam
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