Rob Ittmann
Written by Rob Ittmann

Born and raised in Rotterdam, Bas Kurvers, alderman for construction, housing and energy transition in the built environment, knows this city like no one else. He was brought up with the sense that he should serve society in some way.

En zijn politieke werk weerspiegelt dat. Door samen te werken met alle belanghebbenden in het gebied, hoopt Kurvers zijn geliefde havenstad nog beter te maken.

Hoe was het voor jou om op te groeien in Rotterdam?

“Als ik eraan terugdenk, heb ik mooie herinneringen aan mijn jeugd. Als kind ben ik opgegroeid in IJsselmonde en Charlois. Toen, op de middelbare school, opende mijn RET-pas voor zone 5314 een heel nieuw Rotterdam voor mij. Ik ontdekte dat het echt een uitgestrekte stad is die bestaat uit veel kleine "dorpjes". Mijn ouders vonden Katendrecht en Centraal Station destijds niet veilig en lieten mij daar niet heen gaan. Om het botweg te zeggen, toen was dit gebied een puinhoop. Als je nu naar het Central District kijkt, zie je een vernieuwd en dynamisch gebied waar we nog lang niet klaar zijn met ontwikkelen.”

And his political work reflects that. Working hand-in-hand with all area stakeholders, Kurvers hopes to make his beloved port city even better.

What was it like for you to grow up in Rotterdam?

“When I think back on it, I have great memories of my youth. As a kid, I grew up in IJsselmonde and Charlois. Then, in secondary school, my RET pass for zone 5314 opened up a whole new Rotterdam for me. I discovered it’s really a sprawling city composed of lots of little “villages”. My parents felt Katendrecht and Central Station weren’t safe at the time and didn’t let me go there. To put it bluntly, back then this area was a mess. Looking at the Central District now, you see a revamped and dynamic area that we’re nowhere near finished developing yet.”

‘Looking at the Central District now, you see a revamped and dynamic area that we’re nowhere near finished developing yet.’
Bas Kurvers

How did you experience the city as a student?

“It was basically an extension of the life I already led. I played football three times a week, with matches on Saturdays. I did well studying history and have good memories of my tutors.

When starting on my thesis, though, I began to feel hemmed in. Everything was moving so fast and I didn’t want start a proper job so young. Due to temp jobs at places like Unilever and ABN AMRO through Randstad, my studies got pushed to a back burner. The upshot was that it took me seven years to complete my degree.”

You’ve held a number of municipal posts. How did you get into politics?

“That didn’t happen until after university. When my football mates got faster and better at it than me, I decided it was time for a new hobby – and politics was it. Becoming a member of the Rotterdam VVD was the first step.

In a city like Rotterdam, that’s diverse in so many ways, my eye’s on connecting and political civic-mindedness. These topics speak to me. My parents taught me the importance of engagement with society. Don’t only focus on yourself; think about all those others, too.”

How have you seen RCD change these last years?

“Reconstruction plans started almost immediately after the WWII bombings. Separating functions was prioritized, as was creating the country’s first car-free shopping area, with office buildings concentrated nearby and residential areas around that. Later on, we realized this doesn’t work.

Now we’re very much geared towards creating activities, a lively buzz and adding the residential component. That’s the only way to get a nice mix of functions and a vibrant area where people want to be. “Shoulders to the wheel and going against the flow to make the city attractive” – that’s our motto, and we’re working hard every day to make it happen.”

‘“Shoulders to the wheel and going against the flow to make the city attractive” – that’s our motto, and we’re working hard every day to make it happen.’
Bas Kurvers

Other business districts are envious of the mix of functions here. What more can we look forward to in RCD?

“The idea that other cities are envious of this mix is at odds with the feeling people in Rotterdam have, that developments are moving too fast. We need to take those feelings on board and make an effort not to charge down the same road as cities like London.

That said, RCD is in constant development and I’m incredibly proud of the resulting mix. Across from Central Station, The Modernist is going up. The designers took a “bite” out of the building to let sunlight shine through onto the station plaza. And next to the station we’ll have Tree House, with a cultural platform and an assortment of restaurants on the ground floor. That’s guaranteed to bring a lot more life to the area. RCD will be a place where people want to hang out.”

Is there anything you wish for this district?

“My wish for the district would be that we cherish what we’ve worked so hard to accomplish. This city’s about change, construction, improvement. We should embrace the changes, but also remember where we've come from. Let’s not forget all the companies and parties that have been involved. We make this city together.”

Featured photo by Ruben Stam.

Rob Ittmann
Written by Rob Ittmann