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  • FINALIST 2008


Rotterdam (Netherlands), 2007

A temporary installation exploring new possibilities of public lighting in six sites of the harbour.

Previous state

In recent years an ambitious plan of urban regeneration has been extending the Rotterdam city centre from the northern bank of the Nieuwe Maas River through to the southern bank and across an old port zone called De Kop van Zuid. This sector, connected by the brand-new Erasmus Bridge, will soon be the site of 56,000 new residences while a series of skyscrapers is also appearing – amongst them the highest in The Netherlands – considerably modifying the architectural profile of Europe’s biggest port.

Aim of the intervention

Between 18 and 25 March 2007, under the auspices of the initiative “Rotterdam, City of Architecture”, this sector of the city was the venue of an international workshop of lighting designers, bringing together well-known professionals in the field and engineers, architects, landscape designers, urban planners, municipal experts and students from different disciplines and origins. The aim of the workshop, which was given the name [email protected], was to experiment with and make known new ideas and techniques for lighting, applied to public space.


The workshop began with a selection, bearing in mind the factors of iconic value, exceptionality, and formal diversity, of six riverside sites with a view to using them in a series of temporary experiments in night-time lighting. During the day, the workshop undertook analysis of the sites, development and discussion of concepts, sketching of preliminary designs and exploration of new techniques. At night, the different experiments were tried out in the public view, reflecting the lighting proposals in the water of the river and thereby resuscitating architecture that darkness had blotted out, revealing these buildings anew with surprising presence.

Two of the six experiments were carried out on the northern bank of the Nieuwe Maas River, in the neighbourhood of Scheepvaartkwartier. One of these consisted in lighting from underneath the northernmost point of the Erasmus bridge floor, improving the feeling of security in the zone and highlighting its presence in a dramatic polychrome display. The second relit the nineteenth-century façade of the Wereldmuseum, a well-known museum showing art from around the world. On the other side of the river, the riverfront zone of De Kop van Zuid was the site of two other experiments. The first involved a spectacular display of kinetic lighting on the façade of the Maritime Simulation Centre. The second projected poetic swathes of light on the Koninginnehoofd, a monument to emigrants. Still further to the south, on the other side of the port of Rijnhaven, is the neighbourhood of Katendrecht, where the last two experiments were carried out on the river bank. One had the huge volumes of the Provimi factory surging out of the darkness, while the other installed different lighting systems in the Buizenpark, a garden that was turned into a cheerful and safe place to meet at midnight. In the month that followed the workshop, these settings remained lit up at night, defining an itinerary for cyclists and pedestrians and members of the public who wanted to se them from close-up. A local television station showed a documentary about the event and a book was also published as permanent testimony to the experiment.


These lighting installations demonstrate that a well-considered, ambitious project of public lighting, besides bolstering a sense of citizen security and improving accessibility, can also constitute a powerful tool for highlighting architecture that is not normally noticed, and for conferring new sense to places that were not previously significant. With a clear educational intent, the experiment explores new techniques for efficiently lighting large surfaces on the urban scale while also reducing energy consumption and light pollution. It also shows that, unlike the competitive and fragmentary nature of commercial lighting, planned lighting from the public sphere can play an important organising and connoting role within the urban landscape. Bringing this experiment to an urban setting, one that is real and open to the public, makes its potential known to professionals, politicians and citizens with significant repercussions on collective awareness. Proof of this is that the Rotterdam City Council has begun to draw up a general municipal plan for lighting design in public space.

David Bravo Bordas, architect

[Last update: 02/05/2018]

Technical sheet

CITY: Rotterdam
COUNTRY: Netherlands
COST: 350,000 €


City of Rotterdam, Department of Town Planning, ELDA workshop

City of Rotterdam, Department of Town Planning, ELDA workshop

European Lighting Designers Association (PLDA)

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