Often in the shadow of big sister Amsterdam, Rotterdam has come into its own over the last decade as the Netherlands’ edgy and accessible city, as well as a visual wonderland. After all, it’s had to rise from the ashes of a wartime bombing that leveled some 30,000 buildings, tragically leaving behind a blank canvas that was prime for progressive art, architecture, and design. “Rotterdam is a very atypical Dutch city,” says Eveline van der Pluijm, manager of the city’s convention bureau and tourism board. “With its eclectic architecture, Rotterdam has a strong and distinctive character that sets it apart from others. One need only look at the second city’s growing hospitality scene for evidence.”
Among recent hotel openings is the vibrant Room Mate Bruno, where Teresa Sapey + Partners revamped a 19th-century Dutch East India Company warehouse—one of the few buildings to survive WWII. Then there’s Culture Campsite, an innovative program that launched last year as a sort of campground-meets-sculpture park: Ten sleeping quarters hide inside quirky, small-scale structures set within an urban park in central Rotterdam.
Projects on the boards tease what’s to come, such as a 5-Star MGallery by Sofitel in the Rijnhaven district; the Sax, a mixed-use high-rise with a hotel component by MVRDV; and the POST Rotterdam, a revitalization of a historic building that survived the Rotterdam Blitz. ODA New York is spearheading the redesign, featuring a 226-room Kimpton hotel and residential tower addition.
Aimed at the tech-savvy traveler, this capsule hostel relies on connectivity and guest wristbands for everything from checking in and unlocking sleep pods to purchasing self-serve beer on tap. Amsterdam’s Studio Modijefsky carved the pod hotel out of three existing buildings, retaining some imperfections—such as bricks exposed through cracked plaster—to exhibit character and urbanity, but sporting an updated palette of yellow, Millennial pink, light blue, and other pastels.
Upon entering, clever details hint at the techie futurism inside: A linear chandelier above check-in points branches out into several light lines suspended above to help with wayfinding. The sleep pods are akin to conventional cruise ship cabins, but inside, they’re self-contained micro rooms holding a bed and just enough fixtures to unpack the essentials. “Guests experience their stay in a different way,” says Esther Stam, founder and art director of Studio Modijefsky. “It’s a place where efficiency connects with technology, where guests are in control of their own needs, and where there is belonging and community.”
Built in the 1950s during Rotterdam’s reconstruction, the Het Slaakhuys originally housed Dutch newspaper Het Vrije Volk until 1976, a past integral to its conversion into the Slaak Rotterdam, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel. “The concept emerges from a conflict between the history of the building as the home to a leftist newspaper and its new function as a luxury hotel,” says Vahid Kiumarsi, partner and creative director at HDVL Design Makers. Midcentury furnishings infuse a residential vibe throughout, while also recalling the era: Wegner shell chairs are grouped with Platner stools and walnut occasional tables, bolstered by an earthy palette of mustard, muted orange, and mossy green. The bronze lobby bar reinforces the residentially informed design, as do touches like area rugs, live-edge coffee tables, and striking wall murals in the 74 guestrooms and suites.
Hip but unpretentious, this recent property reads more like a cozy home than a hotel, with living room-like common spaces and 38 rooms sporting elements such as a loft bed, balcony, or split-level floorplan, and varied furnishings and objects, from a dining table and wire-framed shelves to vinyl record players and leather couches. What they have in common is a stylish aesthetic conceived by cofounders Glenn Severin and Jan-Maarten de Reus in collaboration with creative agency Containr Affairs. Floors are wood parquet, while walls feature wainscoting in sophisticated hues. Fluted glass factors into the palette as the bathroom door in some rooms; as a partition between sleeping and leisure areas in others.
Supernova also functions as an informal gallery, showcasing artwork by young and local creatives. Added perks, like free on-the-go breakfasts and bicycles “meet the needs of modern travelers,” says Severin.
Scheduled for 2022, this hotel originally had an ambitious concept of two volumes connected by a floating swimming-pool bridge with a transparent bottom—making every passerby a voyeur. While the pool is now off the table, the rest of the plan by Amsterdam-based Team V Architecture will likely remain. There will still be two connected volumes, one five stories and the other eight. Together, they will provide 200 guestrooms and long-stay apartments on the upper floors of the taller tower. The walkway between the two will be elevated to create a public square below. Interiors will have a decidedly nautical character. “The surrounding area was formerly an industrial port where the Holland America Line departed to New York,” says Team V director Jeroen van Schooten.
Photography and renderings by Heeman Fotografie, Forbes Massie, JF Weins, and Maarten Willemstein; and courtesy of Team V ARCHITECTURE, Supernova HOTEL, and MVRDV
This article originally appeared in HD’s February 2020 issue.