It seems like the Cube House of Rotterdam is stranded above roads and stuck next to the harbor by the strong wind that blows from the sea. But this popular tourist attraction is also a bizarre architectural experiment and this is the main reason why we decided to spend some time there during a cold January afternoon.
The Cube House of Rotterdam is known, in Dutch, as Kubuswoningen and you can find them at the Oude Haven, the historical section of the city port. The area is a mixture of architectural styles and buildings, but it looks impressive when you think about the fact that the area was destroyed during the Second World War.
When it came to the time to redevelop the area, architect Piet Blom was asked to redevelop the area with something special, a kind of architecture of character. Something that would stand out, and this is how we decided to further explore some cube housing idea he already used in Helmond before. This time, in a more urban context.
A little bit of the history behind the Cube House of Rotterdam
Not much survived the bombing of the Oude Haven during the Second World War, and it took a while for the city of Rotterdam to start a project of urban regeneration in the area. But, in 1974, as a result of a change in the local government, housing and urban development became one of the top priorities. One of the local politicians believes that the functional architecture that was being developed at the time was lifeless and that Rotterdam needed a type of architecture that would shine some life in the city.
The people responsible for this redevelopment project in Rotterdam knew about what Piet Blom had designed before in Helmond and invited him to do this work in the Oude Haven area. But the importance and the scale of the project was a little overwhelming to the architect who had to rethink his objectives and create something different.
Piet Blom came up with an idea: he would build something that it wouldn’t look like it was designed by an architect. Based on this, they split the housing development into three different and distinct projects. One of them is called Blaaktoren and its a 13 story high apartment tower that resembles the shape of a pencil based on its hexagonal structure. Another project was the Spaanse Kade that is a series of terraced buildings that surround an inner courtyard. And, finally, the Kubuswoningen that is an exploration of cube houses in an urban grid.
The architect responsible for the Cube House believed that urban communities should feel like villages. With the Kubuswoningen he had in mind the experience of living in trees. Each elevated cube represented a tree and, collectively, they represented a forest. Which is something that kept popping in my head while I walked around and took pictures of the buildings in Rotterdam.
The Cube House of Rotterdam is made of 38 regular cube units. And two larger cubes that were developed as an architecture school, and the other one was never entirely finished. Each slanted cubic residence is held in place but pillars that are located over a pedestrian bridge over one of the busiest streets in Rotterdam.
Now that you know the history behind these odd-looking houses, you might be thinking about how it is to live in them. And, according to some of the articles I read online, it seems to be quite an awkward experience. Even though the cube house is big, due to the sharp angles of its architecture, almost half of the space is not usable. And to make things even worse, the area is spread around 4 different floors.
When you entered a cube house, you must take a narrow staircase to reach the first floor where there is a triangle-shaped room with a living room and a kitchen. On the next level, there are two bedrooms and a bathroom, and the top floor consists of a small free space that is typically used as a garden.
If you want to learn more about the Cube House of Rotterdam and the architectural work of Piet Blom, you should visit this gorgeous Dutch city and see it with your own eyes. When you arrive there, the Cube House Show Cube has a museum that is open to the public every day, and that shares the story of these odd-looking houses.
Also, if you need a place to stay in Rotterdam, we wrote an article about our experience in the lovely Hostel Ani & Haakie. And if you’re a fan of burgers, there is a place in town called Hamburg that has some of the best burgers I have ever eaten. You should know that.
A Visit to the Cube House of Rotterdam
Overblaak 70, 3011 MH
Rotterdam – Netherlands