The Rotterdamse Daken Dagen (Rotterdam Rooftop Days)

Edition 18 May 2017, by Jeroen Spangenberg

Rotterdam has proven its international standing due to its outstanding architecture such as the Erasmus bridge, the recently finished Rotterdam central station and the new Markthal building. Moreover, there are the Cube houses designed by architect Piet Blom, built in the 80s. Also worth a view is De Rotterdam, a building at the foot of the Erasmus bridge designed by Rem Koolhaas.

The city has a reputation a bastion of Dutch architecture. Architects such Leendert van der Vlugt, Rem Koolhaas and more recently Daan Roosegarde, make Rotterdam eponymous with good architectural and urban design. An architecture film festival, an architecture biennale and a thriving community of museums and institutes keep the flame alive year-round.

From several rooftops it is possible to view the interesting architecture of the city of Rotterdam. The many flat rooftops in the city provide different views of the architectural highlights in Rotterdam. From the roof of the Westblaak Parking Garage for instance, a peaceful oasis above the hustle and bustle of Rotterdam’s premier nightlife hub: de Witte de Withstraat. And from Het Witte Huis (The white house) which, for quite a long time, held the status of tallest building in Europe; one of the few remaining pre-World War II buildings. Most of the time, these roofs are not open to the public. However, during Rotterdamse Dakendagen (open rooftop days) visitors can explore a selection of the city’s most spectacular rooftops. I interviewed Nikki Kamps from Rotterdamse Dakendagen to ask her the specifics.

Nikki Kamps: “First of all, I am happy to announce to your expat readers that we will be giving extra attention this year to communicating in English as well as Dutch. The festivalprogramme will be presented on our website starting May 1st.”

When was the event started for the first time? The first edition was in 2015. Who started this initiative? Rotterdamse Dakendagen is an initiative of Joep Klabbers and Leon van Geest, who share a love for architecture and rooftops as a place for recreation and habitation.
Can you tell me more about the background of Joep Klabbers and Leon van Geest? What kind of profession do they have? Joep is an architect with zoarchitecten. Leon is a moderator and entrepreneur.
Does it take place every year? Yes, Rotterdamse Dakendagen takes place every year in June, the ‘Architecture Month’ within the Rotterdam event calendar.
Is it inspired by New York this event? I think it’s more inspired by Rotterdam and by rooftops in general. The festival is all about the potential for rooftops to add a new dimension to the city. New places for recreation, living, dining and dancing. Without having to expand to the sides. Rotterdam especially, since the rebuild after WW II has a large amount of flat rooftops and is looking for somewhere to grow. We say: why not look up?
What is organized on the rooftops? DJ, sports etc? The main attraction are the open rooftops, we invite everyone to buy a ticket (for 5 euros), put on some comfortable shoes and go on an adventure where you will see the city in a completely new way. If you want to expand your visit, you can book a tour and visit exclusive rooftops with a guide. And last but not least we have the special events and interventions: DJs, dinners, a ‘klimtijdrit’ (a climbing time trial bicycling race) in a parking garage, a rooftop campsite where you can spend the night and much more. For architects, policy makers and others who have a professional interest in rooftops we organize a ‘Kennisdag’ (all keynotes and panels in Dutch unfortunately).
Which buildings participate? Around 15 open rooftops in the city centre and just over the Maas. Also a number of private rooftops available through our tours.
Can you name the 15 rooftops? Not yet we will release all info about the rooftops on May 1st
Why are these buildings not opened the whole year? Different reasons. Some places are not always up to code (we make sure all rooftops are safe, sometimes by adding barriers), some rooftops are under private ownership or atop office buildings. Some rooftops are so called ‘naturerooftops’ with bee hives and vegetation that can only take so many visitors.
What if the weather is bad, is the event still taking place? Definitely. We’re not made of sugar and neither are our visitors. If there is a dangerous situation we will of course choose to cancel but I’m not counting on it. Ofcourse we’re hoping for blue skies and sunshine during the entire weekend.
The event is very popular, how do you contain the queues to a minimum? There is a lot of space on the rooftops. Some might be busy at times, but there are always other rooftops that can be visited, also we are experienced in crowd control and we’re already working on ways to keep everything running smoothly.
What are the costs for attending 1 or 3 days? A Dakpas (roofpass) costs 5 euros. With that, you have free entry to all open rooftops. Every visitor with a Dakpas can add Tours and Specials to expand their visit. A tour will be around 5 euros and a Special around 10 euros. But buying the Dakpas is mandatory, because we want to encourage our visitors to visit the open rooftops. A visit to the Rotterdamse Dakendagen wouldn’t be complete without them.
Which buildings do you think stand out and are a must visit? That really depends on what interests you. We have a special route of ‘highrise highlights’ with some of the highest rooftops in the city. But height isn’t the only interesting thing about a roof, there’s the general atmosphere of a roof, the architecture of its building and the buildings surrounding it and the way the roof is used. On some roofs, we offer special activities and events so those would definitely be on my list. I encourage everyone to scroll around the map on our website (available May 1st).
Which buildings offer the best view? I have a special place in my heart for the Lijnbaanflats, where you have a great view of the Stadhuis and the city behind it (you can see this in our poster), but Rotterdam really is pretty whatever way you look at it.
Was it easy to get all the permits? Since it is not commonplace to use the rooftops in Rotterdam as a space for recreation, the festival is in constant contact with city officials and the process to procure a permit is a very intensive project that requires careful planning.
Are they organising other events to promote Rotterdam or rooftops in general? Rotterdamse Dakendagen is quite the production and with the small team we have this leaves very little room for more events. However, the Rotterdamse Dakendagen Facebook page and instagram are active throughout the year to promote innovative uses for rooftops in Rotterdam and outside of it. Joep and Léon use these platforms to share all recent developments.

Visit the facebookpage: rotterdamsedakendagen