“When the Stranger says: “What is the meaning of this city ?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”
What will you answer? “We all dwell together
To make money from each other”? or “This is a community”?
T.S. Eliott, The Rock
In Rotterdam's case, the answer to the above would be "This is a community". This was confirmed when I went to visit the Luchtsingel, or the "air canal". A wooden bridge connecting the busy district of centraal Rotterdam with the more residential and neglected northern parts of the city on the other side of the railway tracks. It was partially crowd-funded and the names of those who have donated money are printed on the panels of wood that line this pathway that leads into a circle and over to Station Hofplein, an abandoned station that is becoming home to a collection of contemporary boutiques, cafes and restaurants. (Indeed one of my vintage shopping spots was found there.) The bridge isn't finished and continues in stages to grow and connect more parts of the city, drawing understandable comparisons with New York's Highline, which has only just been completed last week after it began as a non-profit, people powered project back in 1999.
Luchtsingel in Rotterdam - In Photos
Luchtsingel represents many things, not least, community spirit. It's also a slice of calm in an otherwise busy part of the city. And it's beautifully simple too. Just wood, a little height, a lot of air and a way to see the city from a different perspective, surrounded by the names of people who wanted you to enjoy just that.
Also much of the wooden pathways and staircases were painted yellow so that meant I sang "follow the yellow brick road" the entire time I walked along the Luchtsingel. Thank goodness I was there alone... most of the time.
I spent a sunny afternoon wandering along the Luchtsingel, going backwards and forwards, stopping to read the names, then walking on and staring out at the buildings crowding my view. I heard the cars thunder under the bridge beneath me and I heard the screech of trains coming into the station on the other side. There was lots of noise, lots of activity, lots of things to see... and yet I still enjoyed many moments of calm. I was also mostly alone which I found surprising, and very enjoyable, it felt like I had stumbled upon a secret walkway that led somewhere special.. And it kind of did as I found a collection of cute shops and some cool street art at the other end... but really the fun was in the walking along the yellow wooden path (not brick road), the fun was in the journey, and it's not often you can say that and really mean it.
You can read more about the bridge's journey from idea to funding to the stages it was built in here. You'll also see from this website that it's associated with a few other connected projects; DakAkker (a rooftop garden where vegetables and other produce grow), Station Hofplein events and exhibition area (which I didn't see so I don't think it was ready when I visited) and Park Pompenburg which was once storage for the railways but is now a public space for barbeques, gatherings and outdoor sports - again I didn't get a chance to see this.
Frances M. Thompson
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