Windmill in Rotterdam - The Cube (and Quirky) Houses of Rotterdam

Where is the most unusual house you have ever seen? A building where people live in, not any other structure such libraries, train stations, skyscrapers and so on.

For me the best to date has been in Rotterdam, a paradise for architecture lovers with a love for new and cutting-edge architecture. In fact, Rotterdam had to be rebuilt after its almost total destruction during the Second World War and in the following decades has seen a lot of unusual and and highly unique buildings appear all over the map of the city.

Being a huge architecture lover, I have to admit that this was the main reason why I’d always wanted to visit Rotterdam, to see the types of stunning structures that everyone always talks about, the conceptual designs that have made Rotterdam’s architecture so notorious and well-known. It didn’t take any effort at all to convince Dale to go too, so during our trip in The Netherlands we decided to stop by Rotterdam for at least a couple of days.

‘Edgy’ Architecture

It’s quite well known that the Dutch like to experiment when it comes to design and I’ve long been a personal fan of every aspect of Dutch design which, in general, is both highly functional whilst remaining beautiful – a difficult achievement to attain. I had to doubt myself though when I first saw the weirdest urban housing that I have ever seen to date, how could these very odd Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen in Dutch) be practical to live into? Their funky design and structure are certainly something different (which is entirely why I love them), but what about functionality? I soon learnt not to doubt Dutch design again as I began to learn that everything had been made that way, designed in that shape, and in that particular spot for a very specific reason.

One of the The Cube (and Quirky) Houses of Rotterdam
The Cube (and Quirky) Houses of Rotterdam

From the outside the Cube Houses look like a little village within the city itself, as if one day someone randomly dropped the whole block of houses in the middle of the city without any prior thought or attention made to the surroundings. I’m not sure if it’s really the case, but to me it looked like there was a small community living in these crazily shaped houses with their own shops underneath, the fact that was almost impossible to see what was going on inside them made me think and imagine that there must be a very fortunate selection of people living in there. It’s interesting sometimes to see how a little imagination can create realities that perhaps don’t even exist, in this case I was picturing the people that lived there and their lives based only on the architecture and design of these houses (I have a very imaginative mind).

The Cube (and Quirky) Houses of Rotterdam

I was almost hypnotized by the Cube Houses and their unconventional architecture. I was trying to study their shape to better understand how they managed to stay up and I couldn’t help but ask myself just why they had been built in that way. Was it only to create something new and weird in Rotterdam, or were there more clearer and long thought over reasons?

Later I learnt that the Cube Houses were designed by the architect Piet Blom who was commissioned to build housing on top of a pedestrian bridge, very much in the same way as Florence’s famous bridge Ponte Vecchio, but very much in a way that showcases the tools available for modern construction. In doing so the architect came up with this experimental project where he thought about everything, not only of the aesthetics but also of the functionality and practical side of the structure. Each house can be seen as a tree supported by a pole, the main innovation though is that they are tilted at 45 degrees which really changes everything from a design point of view. I can only imagine how Blom had to clearly think how to divide the internal space, how to make the most of the usable surface considering the inclination of the walls, whilst still making sure that they were comfortable and practical houses to live in. Simply genius!

Another detail of Cube (and Quirky) Houses of Rotterdam
"Walking through the Cube (and Quirky) Houses of Rotterdam
Detail of the Cube (and Quirky) Houses of Rotterdam

Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the interior of any of the Cube Houses and from the outside it was quite difficult to picture what they must look like inside, but thankfully these photos are available online by Jenny of A Taste of Travel, otherwise who knows how my vivid imagination would have pictured them. What I loved the most about the Cube Houses is how everything follows the very same angle the cube is fixed at, like the windows for instance. They’re shaped and positioned precisely in accordance to the inclination to the structure. You might think that is only logic, but for me it further goes to showcase the brilliance of Blom to imagine and bring into reality his entire design. I also loved the central courtyard and how, by only looking up, it made me feel like I was in a complete different dimension separate from Rotterdam and everything else.

Windows of the Cube (and Quirky) Houses of Rotterdam
More details of the Cube (and Quirky) Houses of Rotterdam
A Window of the Cube (and Quirky) Houses of Rotterdam
Courtyard of the Cube (and Quirky) Houses of Rotterdam

It’s a very powerful structure and surely one of the most interesting architecture projects I’ve ever seen. You can tell that the Cube Houses are very much from a different era, that they have already aged and probably look slightly dated from a design and architectonic point of view; but for me they are still unique and I truly think that Blom was ingenious and a very talented architect.

The Cube (and Quirky) Houses of Rotterdam

Having not been inside any of them, I can’t really say if I would love to live there or not, I’m not sure if I’d get tired of the way everything has to be positioned in order to fit with the angled walls and to make the most of the space available and liveable. As I like to be able to shake up my surroundings by moving things around from time-to-time, I’m not sure if perhaps it might be more of an awkward fit for me trying to live inside there much more than it would be for the furniture.

What about you, could you live in one of Rotterdam’s Cube Houses?