Las Palmas Experience

A Cultural Magnet

Design for a public plaza on the roof of a warehouse, Wilhelmina Pier, Rotterdam (NL), 2005.

SITE : The Wilhelminapier can be seen as an upcoming centerpart of Rotterdam with enormous ambitions to become the best place to be, meaning to live, work and have fun at the many cultural events and restaurants located on the pier. This highrise area called “Little Manhattan at the Maas” is metropolitan with a romantic touch. In the past passenger ships sailed to the New World from here. Now dozens of gigantic and luxury cruise ships moor here every year. The atmosphere of arrival and departure caused by the cruisterminal emphasizes the robust and maritime character of the Wilhelminapier. It is a unique part of Rotterdam, combining the present and the past, old warehouses and modern architecture.

PAST : In the year 1997 a three-storey high warehouse named “Las Palmas" situated in the center of this area, has been pointed out as the new cultural engine of the city of Rotterdam and even the Netherlands. Several organizations such as the V2_LAB (Institute for the Unstable Media), the Photo Institutes in Rotterdam (Netherlands Photo Institute, Netherlands Photo Restoration Atelier, Netherlands Photo Archive), Montevideo Timebased Arts (Amsterdam) and The Filmmuseum (Amsterdam) wanted to create a national institution for imagery (IBC, Instituut voor Beeldcultuur) acting as a real interdisciplinary meltingpot of different specialisms on the field of technical media like cinema, photography and digital media. The idea was to house this institution in the warehouse “Las Palmas”. Such a collaboration and gathering in one building would have been a great opportunity to provide the city of Rotterdam with a specific cultural profile, such as the ZKM provides the city of Karlsruhe. Unfortunately, the partners in this project weren’t able to define a strong common concept to get the needed support from politicians and investors. The whole project failed.

PRESENT : The warehouse “Las Palmas” is now giving space to the Beeldfabriek (a part of the SKVR) which is an educational institution and the Photomuseum Rotterdam. The rest of the building will be occupied by offices. A purely cultural building with a very strong identity has been degraded to an ordinary office building without much cultural spirit and power to resurrect the area. How to re-invent a cultural place with a strong identity?

LAS PALMAS EXPERIENCE : The roof of the Las Palmas building located in the center of the Wilhelmina pier gets accessible by placing a wooden dock-like structure on top of it, which is connected by escalators on each side of the building. It becomes a round-the-clock up-lifted public plaza. The usability of Las Palmas Experience is diverse. The flexible structure gives space to public and private functions, whereas the plain design makes it easy practicable to ensure the potentials of the dream. “Las Palmas Experience” absorbs a healthy mix of culture, commerce and leisure. It is surprising at any moment of the day. A real revelation to all the people with all kinds of expectations, from young to old, from local inhabitants to employers to tourists and investors. “Las Palmas Experience” is a real urban meeting point - a cultural stage for the city of Rotterdam with an enormous force of attraction. All kinds of cultural institution can use this plaza as a satellite. Different programs varying from local to regional and to international events can take place on this unique urban plaza. The warehouse “Las Palmas” becomes a cultural magnet again!

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