They’re smaller than tiny houses, more comfortable than tents, and definitely cooler than your average camper: These architectural sleeping pods form an eccentric, open-air exhibition that doubles as a colorful campsite in the heart of Rotterdam. Ranging from reused grain silos to converted greenhouses, these quirky accommodations have one thing in common—they’re made from waste materials.
Culture Campsite is aimed at architecture fans and art enthusiasts who visit the Netherlands’ second-largest city and are looking for an original place to spend the night. Dubbed "the Dutch Brooklyn," Rotterdam boasts adventurous design and a thriving cultural scene, both of which have turned the city into a popular destination in the past decade. Cheap rents and an abundance of empty buildings enabled lots of creative pop-up initiatives, such as Culture Campsite. The former business park is supposed to be turned into a new neighborhood with apartments and offices, but construction won’t start before the end of 2022. In the meantime, the empty buildings are used as co-working offices for young creatives while the outdoor space hosts 12 quirky sleeping pods.
The campsite is run by four young artists: Isis Hoos and Thijs Masthoff of Studio Made By, Boris Duijneveld of MUD projects, and Laura Abbink. Duijneveld, who says he’s always had a fascination for small-scale architecture, was driving through the Dutch countryside one day and noticed the grain silos used on animal farms.
"There’s no way to recycle redundant silos, so I was wondering if I could build something new with them," says Duijneveld. He started to take them off of farmers’ hands in exchange for a crate of beer or a few euros and turned them into small sleeping accommodations.
Architect Thijs Masthoff used the same principle when he built Scuba, a capsule comprising two discarded calf igloos (plastic domes that shelter baby cows in the first months of their lives). Looking at the cozy sleeping spaces, it’s hard to imagine they were ever anything else. Says Duijneveld, "We take existing things out of their original context and give them a new purpose. This makes the viewer forget they’re looking at waste materials."
Besides creating their own objects, Culture Campsite also collaborates with local architects, designers, and artists. Renske van der Stoep, owner of architecture firm Roffaa, resides in the building adjacent to Culture Campsite. Her tiny house, called Floating Bricks, looks like a normal brick building from a distance—but upon a closer look, no brick seems to touch the other.
Van der Stoep collected leftovers from a factory that produces wall brick strips and glued them to discarded glass panels, leaving space between the strips to create the "floating" effect. "When people think of industrial waste, they assume we’re talking about small shards of glass, but glass-cutting leftovers can be as long as 10 feet," she explains.
Culture Campsite is striving to add new accommodations every year: Besides the calf igloo capsule, they welcomed a converted delivery van onto the site this summer. These "supermarkets on wheels" went around Dutch cities to deliver groceries, from fresh milk to potatoes. Although thousands of them drove around the country in the 1970s, now only a handful of them are left, mainly in small villages without a regular supermarket.
When asked about Culture Campsite’s future plans, Duijneveld says he and his colleagues are looking for an alternative location in case the site owner decides to start constructing apartment blocks here—although he admits it’s becoming harder to find an affordable space. With Rotterdam shedding its gritty image, prices have gone up, threatening the same creative entrepreneurs that turned the city into the cultural hotspot it is today. "I don’t rule out the option of starting from scratch outside of the city. Maybe even abroad," he muses. For now, Culture Campsite will stay where it is—giving you a chance to experience it before it’s gone.
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