Session #3: Wind in the City
Emiel Arends

Walk through Rotterdam


This third session entitled Wind in the City is a walk through Rotterdam. Led by Emiel Arends, a spatial advisor and urban planner of the City of Rotterdam, we will stop at selected built interventions and public artworks made with the hidden intention of shaping the invisible but very physical effects of the wind.

As Arends explains, in a modern city like Rotterdam buildings tend to be bigger, longer, and higher compared to classical European cities, central Amsterdam being a Dutch counter-example. An (unforeseen) effect of higher buildings is the effect it has on the wind in the city. If care is not taken, higher buildings can produce “urban wind canyons.” From the perspective of urban planning, certain locations in Rotterdam require alteration after construction to diminish unforeseen “wind nuisance” which can have dangerous effects on the ground-level of the city and cause debilitating psychological stress.

The existence of awkward canopies, oddly placed public artworks, and timid clusters of trees one sees around the city can be explained as measures to dampen these unforeseen winds. The possibilities of researching wind patterns has advanced in the last decade, increasing the ability to anticipate what wind conditions will emerge after a building is made. This leads to out of the box thinking from architects and urban planners who seek to design with the wind in mind. Both the ignorance and awareness of the effects of the wind in the public realm has led to remarkable interventions resulting in a city that is partly shaped by the wind.

We are happy to continue to explore and forge connections between Haseeb Ahmed's work and the city of Rotterdam. With the generous help and insights of Emiel Arends, we can better conceptualize and make these connections concrete. One of Ahmed’s fascinations is the transition from a landscape being shaped by the wind also known as Aeolian Landscapes to the wind being shaped by the landscape. One can only imagine the sudden transformation of Rotterdam into an intensely windy environment after the bombardments during WWII that destroyed the buildings which once blocked the wind.

Paradoxically, this was to the advantage of those millers left standing who could increase their production of flour which relied on windmills during a time of acute food shortages. A city rebuilt on the sudden emptiness of both the stomach and habitat was also deprived of the possibility of organic and slow growth known to the old city. The reconstruction took place with relative speed which perfectly fit the modern spirit and techniques of contemporary manufacturing that paradoxically were also innovated through the war. A vision of society with advancing technology and new visions of architecture emerged.

Art in public space played an important role in the post-war reconstruction of Rotterdam and helped to fuel the city’s renewed identity and outlook. As Arends will show, art in public space took some interesting and inadvertent turns. As building in open space led to unforeseen wind issues, public art became a handy way to mitigate “wind nuisance.” Looking at public art through the lens of wind, we can see that potentially every artwork in public space must have another hidden utility.

Duration: approx. 2 hours
Wilheminapier, Landverhuizersplein 2-52, Rotterdam
Rotterdam Centraal Station

Emiel Arends works as a senior advisor on urban affairs for the city of Rotterdam. He is the author of the new high-rise vision of Rotterdam’s cityscape and is involved in numerous Inner-city developments. Arends is also a lecturer in the department of water management at the Rotterdam University.