RGDS Rotterdam trip: from “urban laboratory” to “building story”

The Syracuse Architecture New York City program traveled to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, from October 21-30 as part of the School’s Rubin Global Design Studio (RGDS).

The studio, based in the School’s Fisher Center in New York City, conducted primary research in Rotterdam to investigate and construct unique “building stories.” Additionally, the group traveled to Eindhoven and Amsterdam for parallel case studies and design inspiration.

Upon arrival to Rotterdam, 15 students, 2 faculty, and donor Todd B. Rubin embarked on a series of architectural tours with local architectural historians and professionals with whom they visited the waterfront, inner-city, and “Kop van Zuid” developments. Enriching students’ knowledge of Rotterdam and Dutch Architecture were office visits to MVRDV, Powerhouse Company, Studio Roosegaarde, and ZUS. These office visits were joined by the School of Architecture Advisory Board and Dean Michael Speaks. Students also had the opportunity to present their “building stories” to the Board at Hotel New York in Rotterdam where the discussion on students’ research and learning objectives continued over a group dinner. Students received valuable feedback on their projects, as well as insight on long-term career goals.

In a day trip to Eindhoven, students had first-hand experience with the renowned Dutch Design Week. The group visited the Design Academy Eindhoven exhibition, and other exhibits by leading professionals in industrial design, architectural design, and urban design. In the evening, students were able to witness the testing results of TU Eindhoven students’ experiment on concrete, a workshop led by Siebe Bakker and Piet Eckert. The day trip concluded with a Wim Eckert lecture on the use of concrete in modern architecture.

Before returning to New York City, students had two days to explore various waterfront developments in Amsterdam such as the Central Waterfront, Western Docklands and the Eastern Docklands. In a boat tour, students passed by the iconic Silodam designed by MVRDV, along with other iconic landmarks. On foot, students toured the EYE Film Museum and the Central Library, and walked onto the roof of the NEMO Science Museum by Renzo Piano.

Throughout the trip, the group studied waterfront development, first via site visits in Rotterdam, and then reinforced in Amsterdam, where the struggle between land and water is even more heightened. Students not only saw examples of architecture as independent entities, but also developed understanding of context within the harbor city—a valuable perspective for creating narration of their “building stories.”

One special memory from the trip was the gift of a wooden plank to be engraved with each of the students’ names and inserted in the Luchtsingel, a unique pedestrian bridge designed by ZUS connecting three areas of Rotterdam. Students hope to return to Rotterdam see their names on the bridge—hopefully marking the beginning of their contribution to place making.

The Rubin Global Design Studio was established in 2012 by Todd B. Rubin ’04 and The Rubin Family Foundation as a recurring research and travel studio that would explore contemporary challenges facing specific built environments through a series of global case studies. In each installment, the RGDS embarks on parallel investigations of a city abroad and New York City as its reference “urban laboratory.” The Rotterdam trip is the fifth destination explored by RGDS students since 2012.