The expansion of its activities has meant that Rotterdam's harbour has shifted closer to the sea, thus freeing up the old city harbours for other uses. The Wilhelmina Pier lies in such an old city harbour, between the River Maas and the RhineHarbour, and is being developed into a spectacular residential and office area with a lot of high-rise buildings. The ocean steamers and cruise ships of the Holland-Amerika Line once moored on the Wilhelmina Pier to make the crossing from Rotterdam to New York. The Holland-Amerika Line offices were in what is now Hotel New York. On the Wilhelmina Pier were warehouses with exotic names of international port cities, such as New York, New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, Baltimore and Havana. For the highest residential building of the Netherlands, at the head of the Wilhelmina Pier, a name has been chosen that fits into this tradition: Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. In 1999 Mecanoo was asked by ING Real Estate and the Rotterdam Urban Planning Agency to think up a concept design plan for the south side of the Wilhelmina Pier, which at that time was mainly intended for high-rise residential buildings. For the north side, free-standing office buildings were being developed: the WorldPortCenter by Norman Foster and the KPN tower by Renzo Piano. For Mecanoo it was important that the contrast between the north and south sides should not be expressed in the way the buildings looked, and for this reason Mecanoo did not want to create a ?housing project? image - buildings characterised in the main by repetitive balconies. Mecanoo proposed a series of tall buildings that together would produce a vertical city, something like a stack of mansions with spacious, neutral floor plans for either living or working and with inviting, open ground-floor functions at street level. Mecanoo?s urban composition uses the sporadic low-rise buildings on the north side as a counterweight, so that from the south side, too, you can see the Rotterdam city centre to the north. Montevideo was then designed as a prototype, inspired by the Holland-Amerika feeling summoned up by the location. Montevideo consists of a composition of intersecting volumes, part of which is suspended above the quay. The building refers to the interbellum high-rise buildings of New York, Chicago and Boston: brick built, with refined detailing and use of colour, a lot of roof terraces and loggias. The construction contributes to the Holland-Amerika feeling: a system that alternates steel (Amerika), concrete (Holland) and then steel again. The first two floors are built of steel and bear the 152 metres high tower and the Water Apartments jutting 16 metres out. The 27 floors above are executed with a concrete climbing form. From the 28th floor steel is used, so that the floors of these apartments are freely subdivisible. This allows the building to achieve a very varied spatial structure: 192 dwellings with no less than 54 different types and different floor heights divided amongst Loft, City, Sky and Water apartments. All this on top of a two-storey underground parking facility. Windows, balconies and loggias are distributed across the building in a rhythmic composition: corner-spanning, storey-high, circular, staggered, opening on hinges and sliding open. The diagonals of the steel construction of the top floors can be descried through the windows. The building reminds you of the cross-section of an ocean steamer with different floor heights, different price classes and communal facilities. There are apartments in many sizes and price classes, restaurants, offices, guest suites and a swimming pool with fitness centre and sauna. The residents can use service facilities, such as a shopping service, catering, cleaning and maintenance services, a post-keeping service and a laundry service. The entrance to Montevideo has something of the ambiance of a hotel lobby, where you arrive as a traveller. A map of the Uruguay coastline has been painted in silver on the Mecanoo-blue wall, with evocative names such as Punta del Este, Treinta-y-Tres and Dolores. Lying in your bed you can see through a large porthole the passing ships on the MaasRiver. At 9.49 a.m. on the 21st of March 2005, exactly two years after building commenced, a crane hoists a gigantic letter M onto Montevideo and the building reaches its highest point of 152,317 metres. The M - an open steel construction measuring 8 x 8 x 1,60 metres and weighing 9 tons - is mounted with a rotating axis onto the jib of the sky gondola. The pine tree set up for the topping out ceremony for the 300 construction workers sticks out merrily above it. The M, Montevideo?s logo, proudly protrudes above the Rotterdam skyline like a weather vane. The M confirms Rotterdam?s maritime tradition and shows all Rotterdammers the wind direction. Together with the water tank by the artist Ineke Hauer on the lower-lying roof, the M makes the Holland-Amerika feeling complete.