Since Rotterdam is the second biggest city of The Netherlands, it was the birthplace of many famous people. A short collection of Rotterdam’s finest.
Desiderius Erasmus (28 October 1466 – 12 July 1536) is probably the most famous of them all. Having numerous buildings and organisations named after him. The most iconic bridge of Rotterdam is named after Erasmus, the Erasmusbrug. Next to the bridge also the university, the academic medical center and formerly one of the subway lines was named after him. Even the European Union’s exchange programme for students is named after the Rotterdam philosopher.
Eventhough his birthplace is disputed by some, the general consensus is that he was born in Rotterdam, but was conceived in close-by Gouda. His most famous work is In Praise of Folly, published in 1511. The essay is a satirical attack on superstitions, other traditions of European society and on the Western Church.
Piet Pieterszoon Hein (25 November 1577 – 18 June 1629) was a Dutch admiral and privateer for the Dutch Republic during the Eighty Years’ War. Hein was the first and the last to capture a large part of a Spanish treasure fleet, a convoy of ships which transported huge amounts of gold and silver from Spanish America to Spain. The amount of silver taken was so big that it resulted in the rise of the price of silver worldwide and the near bankruptcy of Spain.
Piet Hein was actually born in Delfshaven, nowadays a part of Rotterdam. But when Hein was born it was still a seperate town and served as a sort of colony for the city of Delft to have access to the North Sea. But since Delfshaven was annexed by Rotterdam in 1886 by their own request, Hein became officialy a part of Rotterdam’s history.
Remment Lucas Koolhaas (born 17 November 1944) is a Dutch architect, architectural theorist, urbanist and Professor in Practice of Architecture and Urban Design at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. He has won many architectural prizes and in 2008 Rem Koolhaas was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of that year.
Koolhaas founded his practice OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) in 1975. The head office is located in Rotterdam and has 4 branches worldwide. Some of the most notable works of OMA and Koolhaas include the Seattle Central Library, the National Library of Qatar, the CCTV headquarters in Beijing and the largest building of The Netherlands, simply called The Rotterdam.
One of his biggest projects in his hometown is the design for Feyenoord City, a masterplan for a 63,000 seater stadium and the surrounding area. The total built program for Feyenoord City is close to 600,000 square metres, and includes a new cinema, hotels, offcies, shops and housing.
Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning (24 April 1904 – 19 March 1997) was a Dutch-American abstract expressionist artist. Born in Rotterdam, but left for the United States when he was just 22 years old. He settled in New York and became part of the group of artists that became known as the New York School. The Rotterdam based Willem de Kooning Academy was named after him, being an alumni. It’s one of the most famous art schools of the country and is part of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.
His works have been sold for record prices. His oil painting Interchange was sold in 2015 for a staggering $300 million, the highest price ever paid for a painting at that time. At this time only surpassed by Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold for $450 million in 2017. Willem de Kooning is by far the painter who had his works sold for the highest prices when he was still alive. In contrast, Rembrandt van Rijn, painter of The Netherlands’ most famous painting, The Night Watch, died as a poor man. But to be honest, that was mostly due to Rembrandt’s expensive taste and extravagant living style.
Robin van Persie
We have to add a football player to the list, because as modern day icons they are among the most famous people in the world. Rotterdam was the birthplace of many famous football players like Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Georginio Wijnaldum, Winston Bogarde and Faas Wilkes. With Wilkes being the first Dutch player to make a transfer to a foreign club (Inter Milan) in 1949.
But probably the most famous of them all, and the most succesful is probably Robin van Persie. He is the all time topsorer of the Dutch national team (102 caps) and won various individual awards. Born in the poorer part of popular neigbourhood Kralingen, he spent most of his day playing football on the innercity concrete squares of Rotterdam.
After playing for Feyenoord Rotterdam, he went to the Premier League and played for Arsenal and Manchester United. He also played for Turkish side Fehnerbace before moving back to Rotterdam. In 2019 he played his last professional game and is now an assistant coach of Feyenoord Academy’s under 16 team.