Euromast by Van den Broek & Bakema

Before construction commenced on the Euromast as we now know it, several other designs for an observation tower had been discussed. In 1955 the exhibition E55 was opened. It was a manifesto titled, The Rebuilding of a Destroyed City, and the Will to Overcome Difficulties.  Rotterdam had been heavily bombed in World War II and large parts of the cities were wiped out once the war was over. The organising architects of E55, Van den Broek & Bakema, who also built the world-renowned Lijnbaan, designed a spectacular tower with 4 viewing decks. However, this plan appeared too ambitious for the 50s. When preparations started for the next exhibition, the Floriade in 1960, ideas for an observation tower once again floated to the surface. The municipality of Rotterdam chose a different location and a different architect, Hugh Maaskant. And so, the Euromast  as we know it was constructed. The second part of the name 'mast' refers to Rotterdam as the centre of the shipping industry, symbolising the connection between city and port.

Euromast by Van den Broek & Bakema, 1953-55

Rotterdam Central Station by Will Alsop

Over the past decades, before the current Benthem & Crouwel design was executed, several plans had been made for Rotterdam Central Station. One that stood out was the 'champagne glasses' designed by Will Alsop. Alsop used painting as his base for architecture - he started designing without even glancing at the required programme and worked intuitively. He produced paintings over summer, would then send them back to his firm in London where his drawings were reinterpreted as buildings. He is known for his use of colour, which is also clearly exemplified by his plans for Rotterdam Central Station. In collaboration with Rotterdam Municipality, he worked on the transformation of the station district for a year - in his plan merely one original building would survive. One essential design element was an integrated public transport terminal, split into three levels, including buses, trams, trains and metro. Above them would rise the champagne glasses, symbolizing a 21st-century gateway to the city. However, it became clear the plans would cost four times the provided budget. While politics changed, both locally and nationally, the plans were put aside: "The period in which urbanists acted as God, appeared to be over" (Tilman, 2018.)

Rotterdam Central Station by Will Alsop 2000-2001

City on Pampus by Van den Broek & Bakema

Another project by Van den Broek & Bakema, more idealist and large-scale than their design for the Euromast was Stad op Pampus, City on Pampus. They envisioned this megastructure as a solution to all of Amsterdam's issues in the 60s; challenges in mobility and housing scarcity could be tackled by an extension of the city accommodating 350,000 citizens, a population the size of Utrecht. Van den Broek & Bakema designed the city in a linear form, along a central mobility axis, including a monorail, similar to Corbusier's Ville Radieuse. Along the outer boundaries of the plan, the volumes would be smaller and lower, in order to provide recreational space by the water for the inhabitants. However, during the 60s, criticism increased towards these mass scale programmes which idealised cities as engineerable while neglecting human scale. Eventually, only small versions of these plans were executed such as the Bijlmer in Amsterdam.

CIty on Pampus by Van den Broek & Bakema, 1958-1964.

Manhattan along the IJ-river by OMA

The archives of the Municipalities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam feature many unrealised projects by OMA, including the plans for the Central Station of Amsterdam in the early 1990s. Back then, the capital of the Netherlands was in crisis, both from an economic and a spatial perspective: in a short time frame most port activities had moved out of the city. The inner city was rapidly transforming from industrial to service-oriented. Most neighbourhoods were in poor condition and the population was in decline. Thus, investments had to be made to re-stabilise the city in order to attract international markets. In the plan 'Manhattan along the IJ-river' by Rem Koolhaas, western, eastern and northern sides of the station were extended and programmed as a business district. In addition, a huge bus terminal and boulevard along the river were integrated. The plans were officially presented in 1992, but were received with critique, specifically in regard to the accessibility of the design and the financial feasibility. Development of the 'Zuidas' in the South of Amsterdam turned out to be a more feasible option and all the plans for the Dutch Manhattan were discarded.

Manhattan along the IJ-river by Rem Koolhaas (OMA), 1990-1992

The Peace Palace by L.M. Cordonnier

At the start of the 20th century, a design competition was held to build the Peace Palace in the Hague; 216 architects participated, among which  Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen, Otto Koloman Wagner, Hendrik Petrus Berlage, Willem Kromhout and Eduard Cuypers. More than 3000 drawings were sent in. Remarkably so, many modern architects at that time didn't take part which resulted in a series of relatively conservative, traditional contestants. Many designs were in baroque and neo-styles. Nearly every architect exceeded the budget which left the judges with a difficult decision. The first prize was eventually won by L.M. Cordonnier, an architect from Lille, and construction lasted six years from 1907 to 1913. The Peace Palace especially exemplifies the influence of society's standards on the realisation of architectural dreams. Our fictions becoming tangible truths depend on realistic conditions, and the challenge appears to be to striking a fine balance between the contemporary 'what we know now' and the unpredictability of the future.

The Peace Palace designs by Berlage (top left), Töry (top right), Kromhout (bottom left) and Cordonnier (bottom right)