Fire, by West 8

West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

When strolling this week through Rotterdam I stumbled at this mini-mountain-landscape at the Schouwburgplein. Stunned by these unimaginably beautiful forms, it took me a moment to realize it is an installation by West 8 that is part of the remembering this year of the 1940 bombing of Rotterdam by the Nazis that killed many and destroyed the whole old city except for the city hall and the church.

“City On Fire/City In Bloom depicts both the burning city and the blossoming of Rotterdam in the aftermath of World War II”, the architect writes. The ‘mountains’ are actually ‘flames’ that represent the fire caused by the German bombing. It is a pity you can’t go inside, the interior space must be amazing!

The installation itself is made of plants that are hung onto nets. “Sixty-four thousand red and purple flowers”, it reads, that “will literally bloom during the next six weeks (until Sunday, 24 June).”

West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)
West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)

Last May West 8 won the competition for a permanent marking of the ‘Fire Limits’. In their design West 8 marks the border with LED-units in the ground, and adds benches and information-portals. All historical heritage should be packaged and sold to the residents and tourists.

And suffering is part of that heritage, if considered a virtue by the public. And the selling is suffering in general is big business, I read last weekend in the newspaper. The author noted that all this ‘complaining’ however brings us nowhere.

“An iconic image of a flame is incorporated in circular light objects” […] “The image of the flame shows a visual connection with Zadkine’s statue commemorating the bombing of Rotterdam. The light objects come to life at night when the solar-powered LED’s illuminate the icon.” It’s curious that West 8 proposes to remember the bombing and its fire by redoing it in a very small and harmless and way. Not the victims, not the ashes, not the ruines, not the rebuilding, but the fire is the chosen. If you are working with light, a fire is quite naturally your iconography, but that can hardly be considered an explanation. I get the feeling the term ‘Fire Limits’, as formulated by the municipality for the competition, worked as a self-fulfilling prophecy – you get new fire limits, smouldering and everything.

The flame-shaped benches will feature quotes of eyewitnesses, facts, poems and links to websites of museums. With a distance of about 25 meters, the LED-units form a twelve kilometers long line around the inner city of Rotterdam. Red lights represent the damage done by the fifteen minutes German bombing; green lights mark the collateral damage done by the Dutch Special Forces that were trying to defend the bridges. Friendly fire is something different.

West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Copyright West 8)
West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Copyright West8 )

West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Copyright West 8)
West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Copyright West8 )

West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Copyright West 8)
West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Copyright West8 )

West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Copyright West 8)
West 8 - Fire Border, Rotterdam (Copyright West8 )

Zadkine Sculpture (Photograph: Wikipedia)
Zadkine Sculpture, Rotterdam (Photograph: Wikipedia)

Related: Seven Sisters, by West 8, Maple Leaf, by West 8.

The project is added to the Architects, and Representation pages.


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