Message to Rotterdam – RAP 2021


I must say that emotions are really big, because – maybe you hear it in my accent that I was born in Romania; well, you don’t hear that, but you hear that I have a funny accent.  I speak ‘Flemish’ with a Romanian accent. Why is it important that I was born in Romania?

Well, in Romania, before 1989, we couldn’t travel outside the country. So, the second time I travelled abroad was in 1999, when I was 21 years old and I won an Erasmus scholarship to Belgium. I arrived in Belgium and a few days later I could join a study trip to…Rotterdam! To Rotterdam! And we travelled by bus from Leuven to Rotterdam and we arrived here, where we are now. And when I crossed the Kunsthal, I realised that everything I knew about architecture was outdated. And I studied so hard, thanks to Kunsthal and actually to Rotterdam with its already back then iconic building. So thank you, Rotterdam!  It was a beautiful lesson. Who could have thought then that 22 years later I would be standing here, in the same Kunsthal, talking about the architecture prize and the direction Rotterdam should take in view of global challenges.

With the Rotterdam Architecture Prize 2021, we, the jury, want to put the imagination to work. Imagination not only in relation to the buildings, but also to the relationship of the buildings to the open space, and how the buildings add value to their surroundings. How do you create quality of life? How do you facilitate encounters between people? What do you do on the ground floor and what is the relationship with the public space? You want a nice ground level and social cohesion. Because architecture cannot be seen separately from people, because architecture helps to determine how people behave and move around. The way people use buildings contributes to identity. And if people feel connected to a city, they make it their own. And that is sustainability!

But all these people need space in the city. Urban nature and biodiversity also need space, and land is scarce. Therefore there is a need for innovation and experimentation with new forms of urban densification combined with more greenery and more biodiversity, with high quality and affordable housing, and with an active and intense urban plinth. And that is sustainability!

Together, you have made Rotterdam the city of architecture. Since my study trip to Rotterdam in 1999, one iconic building after another has made the city’s skyline ever more spectacular. But how do you make a sustainable, healthy and green Architecture City in which everyone feels at home? Every building should be seen as a contribution to the whole of the city. And that is only possible through co-creation involving society, communities, politics, economics and technology. The jury is impressed by the collaborations in the field, and by the results that combining ideas, experiences and resources can produce. Put the imagination to work and you get architecture worthy of praise that transcends programme, context and moment. 

The winner of the Rotterdam Architecture Prize 2021 convincingly demonstrates all of this. 

And that winner is: Little C!

Watch Oana Bogdan’s final speech here.

Date: 16.06.2021