Rem Koolhaas

Rotterdam: Europe's showcase of bold modernity

Rotterdam: Europe's showcase of bold modernity

When traveling in the Netherlands -- with its canals, windmills and tulip fields -- it all seems so cute and sweet; you may find yourself exclaiming, "Everything's just so... Dutch!" But for another side of the Netherlands, visit the no-nonsense "second city" of Rotterdam.

Mighty Rotterdam has a gleaming skyline and Europe's largest port. Locals say that while the money is spent in Amsterdam, it's made in Rotterdam. They boast that shirts in Rotterdam are sold with the sleeves already rolled up.

Once it was quaint and cozy like Amsterdam, but Rotterdam was leveled by the Nazis in World War II. Hitler ordered a systematic bombing of the city, and its...