Six reasons why Rotterdam is the best city for urban planners

Water Plaza - Rotterdam
Rotterdam architecture

Futuristic skyscrapers currently sit beside post-war buildings in a city centre that was bombed to the ground in 1940. Forced to rebuild, Rotterdam went one step further and reinvented itself, becoming a city of experimental architecture that delights and fascinates urban professionals and city lovers from around the world. 

Named one of the Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016, Rotterdam has come a long way from its humble beginnings and has won multiple awards for its original buildings, accessible transport and climate change initiatives. Referred to by architects as the ‘City of the Future’, here are six ways that Rotterdam inspires urban planners today.  

Ossip van Duivenbode

1. Award-winning architecture

Rotterdam is a city of innovation, constantly striving to remain at the cutting edge of modern architecture. After the city was destroyed in World War II, it was rebuilt with new building technologies, including 3D printing, floating architecture and robotic construction. The city is home to ambitious architectural projects, such as The Cube Houses and Markthal Rotterdam, the later of which has the biggest ceiling artwork in the world and was named the best shopping centre in the world by ICSC. Even Rotterdam Centraal Station has won multiple awards including the International Brunel Awards 2014, the American Architecture Prize 2017 and the Living Daylight Award 2014.  

2. Sustainability goals

Rotterdam has made sustainability a priority. The Port of Rotterdam, which is the biggest port in Europe, aims to also become the most sustainable port in the world by improving heat alliance and controlling its carbon footprint (Port of Rotterdam, 2018). The city invests in sustainability projects, such as the recycled floating park in Rijnhaven and Stadgas, which makes biogas from leftover food. Erasmus University has their own sustainability aspirations and raises awareness through the Erasmus Sustainability Days. Find more environmental projects, here (Rotterdam Climate Initiative, 2018).

Bart Hoogveld

3. Urban events

Rotterdam has multiple events and workshops aimed at for urban professionals. De dependence offers sessions on public debates and city culture in Rotterdam. Climate Adaptation Academy by C40 Cities offers sessions, meetings and workshops for people interested in how cities impact climate change. Urban Photo Race (12/05/2018) is a playful sport event around the city of Rotterdam, which is a good way of getting to know the urban areas.

Water Plaza - Rotterdam
Iris van den Broek

4. Expertise in water management

Over 60% of the Netherlands is under the sea level, which has made it world famous in water management. Its geographical location and vulnerability to climate change has made Rotterdam become a top knowledge base in the area of global warming. Rotterdam is prepared for the future challenges and fights against rising water levels by building water plazas and green roofs to store rain water. As a delta city, Rotterdam is an excellent example of how to manage a constantly changing environment (Waterworld, 2018). In 2015, Rotterdam was one of the 10 global cities, which were honored with the C40’s Adaptation Planning & Assessment award for the city’s excellent strategy when adapting to climate change (Next City 2015).

Ossip van Duivenbode

5. Modern infrastructure

FD Intelligence’s Large European Cities of the Future 2016/17 scale ranks Rotterdam as the most connected city in Europe. Rotterdam has high-quality infrastructure, an accessible airport and seaport, as well as multiple connections to cities all around the world. (Port of Rotterdam, 2017). According to The Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017, the Netherlands has the best port infrastructure in the world. The port of Rotterdam invests over 150 million euros per year in port infrastructure to ensure the quality of their services. Bikes are a common form of transportation in the Netherlands. Rotterdam accommodates this with wide cycling paths throughout the city and free bike parking. From a travelling point of view, Rotterdam and The Hague received an international C&IT Award for the Best Short-Haul Destination in 2017.

Claire Droppert

6. Excellent public spaces

Rotterdam has many parks such as Het Park, green spaces and gardens, which are easily located in the city area and provides great possibilities for outdoor activities. (City Rotterdam 2017). Rotterdam is a great place for shopping. In downtown Rotterdam, shopping streets with multiple stores and cafeterias are located within walking distance from each other. (City Guide Rotterdam 2018). The street system in the city has dynamic traffic management, multiple parking lots and needs of pedestrians are the main focus. 


Are you feeling inspired to learn from Rotterdam’s unique cityscape? Consistently named as one of the top cities in the world for architecture and urban design, it is no wonder that many professionals choose this city to further their understanding in the field.

To find out more information about studying for your master’s in urban management and development at IHS please read our course information page. You may also find our scholarships and frequently asked questions pages useful.

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Photo credit: Iris Van den Broek; Ossip Van Duivenbode

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