Category Archives: Design

Nothing Is What It Seems…

During its International Garden Festival — on from now until November 2016 — French designer Mathieu Lehanneur brings a ‘liquid marble’ installation to the courtyard of Domaine de Chaumont-Sur-Loire Centre d’Arts et de Nature in France. ‘Petite Loire’ highlights the ways in which marble, water and light come together to evoke a dynamic feeling of a river in motion. comprising a single piece of hand-polished green marble designed using 3D software, the surreal object reproduces the effect of wind passing over the surface of water, transforming an ephemeral moment into something solid. ‘Petite Loire’ — a continuation of Lehanneur’s ‘liquid marble’ series — explores the potential of using algorithms to manifest a transitory moment in time.

‘I wanted to address the garden with water as my muse,’ Lehanneur says. ‘The water whose presence we sense even before we first catch sight of it below the château, flowing uninterrupted to the sea. Some say the Loire is France’s last wild river; it shapes and nourishes the landscapes, it passes through without ever pausing along the way.’

‘Petite Loire is a freeze-frame, the river’s perpetual movement caught in a frozen, fossilized moment. A few dozen meters above the river’s natural level, Petite Loire cuts cleanly through the garden’s surface, delving into the soil to reveal a fluvial relief, both vertiginous and practicable, in green marble. I hope that, when passing the chateau gates, the visitor will experience something that comes close to a magic portal, to a forbidden place in so many fairytales. Everything is liquid in this space, evanescent, enlightened, and yet it is executed in a material that is the one of the most solid imaginable.’


94 Drawings

Drawing from the side of Shipping House with detailed drawings for the artisans. This will be also on display from May 27 at the exhibition: City Illustrators of Amsterdam at the Amsterdam City Archives
Drawing from the side of Shipping House with detailed drawings for the artisans. This will be also on display from May 27 at the exhibition: City Illustrators of Amsterdam at the Amsterdam City Archives

During research for the exhibition ‘Living in the Amsterdam School’ curators of the Stedelijk Museum did extensive research into the City Archives. A folder with 94 drawings of Scheepvaarthuis (Shipping House) sheds a new light on the origins of the architecture. The Shipping House was the first major building in the Amsterdam School style, which was ‘born’ exactly one hundred years ago, and on that occasion the style got its name. The drawings give more insight into the roles of architects Joan Melchior van der Mey, Piet Kramer and Michel de Klerk.

Early last century, six leading shipping companies were about to give a very prestigious order for a large communal building near Amsterdam Central Station. The contract was awarded in August 1912 to the relatively young architect Joan Melchior van der Mey, then 34 years old. For this great job, he put together a team at a later stage, with among others the architects Piet Kramer and Michel de Klerk, who were younger than himself, and whose drawing talents he gratefully took in advantage.

In the folder with 94 drawings it is easy to read and the cooperation of the triumvirate and the role that each had in it. In addition, the folder contains designs for interior components, and there were virtually no examples known. On the majority of the drawings an indication or sketch by Van der Mey, while the working drawings can usually be attributed to De Klerk. On one study sheet one can find furniture sketches of both De Klerk and Van der Mey, with instructions on a floorplan and detailed sketches. This indicates that the designers did not take a separate component on their behalf, but really the three of them worked together to the total project.

Design drawing for a rug in the boardroom Scheepvaarthuis (Shipping House)
Design drawing for a rug in the boardroom of Scheepvaarthuis (Shipping House)

Unique in the folder is the design for a large carpet with a striking design, for the boardroom of Stoomvaart-Maatschappij Nederland (SMN) on the second floor of The Shipping House. Until now, there was nothing known about this remarkable design, and since its completion in 1916 no author has written a thing about it. Initially it was thought that perhaps it was a design by Michel de Klerk, as he also designed furniture for the space. A drawing in the ‘weaving notebook’ of Mrs Van der Mey however, shows that this carpet design is by her husband. Sarah van der Mey followed her first weaving lessons in Copenhagen in 1908, and then she wove on commission many rugs. On the found drawing, which will be included in the exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, shows that Van der Mey consulted Sarah to explain how this particular carpet had to be practically translated. The fact that Van der Mey worked on the design of the carpet shows once again the close cooperation with De Klerk and Kramer, in particular, this specific space in The Shipping House, for which the two other architects made designs.

A study sheet attributed with design sketches to Michel de Klerk shows a colored round table. This may have been the basis for a very good table from circa 1918 possibly designed by De Klerk and was made by furniture manufactory ‘t Woonhuys. Both the study sheet and the oval table will be in the exhibition at Stedelijk Museum.

Very different is the addition of a female portrait in profile at the right part of a page of drawings. This is probably the great love of De Klerk, Lea Jessurun who, just as he, worked in the architectural firm of Eduard Cuypers, where Leah worked until her marriage with De Klerk in 1910.

Prayer Temple in Amsterdam West

In the Jan Maijenstraat in Amsterdam West sits a large brick building on the square, that doesn’t at first sight equals the reminiscent of a church. The letters above the entrance indicates that it is indeed a church; the Jerusalem Church. It is the only church from the period of the Amsterdam School, both outside and inside have been remained intact. Reason enough to declare this monument to Amsterdam School Monument of the Month.

Jerusalem Church - photo Albert Palsgraaf
Jerusalem Church – photo Albert Palsgraaf

At the beginning of the 20th century was like decades before a big shortage of housing in the city. After the famous Plan South by architect Berlage in 1917, the city presented in 1922, Plan West. The plan was also known as the 6,000-houses plan called for the number of laborers housing who would appear west of the Admiralengracht. The Jerusalem Church was one of the three churches built in this area. Under the motto ‘City without temple’ Dutch Reformed churches collected money for years to pay for the construction.

The Jerusalem Church was designed by architect F.B. Jantzen and built in 1928-1929. The church, in tight Amsterdam School style, pops out of a block of social housing and fits harmoniously into the other buildings in Amsterdam School style in the forecourt. Connecting the church with the underlying housing blocks had been a deliberate choice of the architect to express that God will dwell with men. The design is clearly influenced by the buildings of the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, with the characteristic cubic shapes and flat roofs. The terrace structured building looks reminiscent of a temple from the Middle East.

Interior Jerusalem Church
Interior Jerusalem Church

The interior is designed as a unit, largely by Jantzen itself. Previously, he was guided by numbers and colors that had a Biblical sense. For example, the stained-glass windows are rich in biblical symbolism. But this is also reflected in the chandeliers, the central headlight symbol of Jesus surrounded by twelve smaller lights, the apostles. The dark furniture from tropical wood contrasts with the white walls. The 42-voice Furtwängler & Hammer organ in the church, has like the building a monumental status and was restored in 2014. Incidentally the church, which is still, as such, is in use as a branch of pop temple Paradiso.

This year’s Open Heritage Day Amsterdam celebrates its 30th birthday and as a tribute 100 years Amsterdam School will be celebrated. In addition to the regular weekend in September, it will open doors of a special Amsterdam School building, from April on every second Sunday of the month. The Jerusalem Church is the first to open its doors, and on Sunday, April 10th from 12:00 to 17:00 you can visit the building. Admission is free, during the tours they will tell you more about the building and from 14:00 the organ will be played occasionally.

Already curious? Look ahead to local broadcasting AT5 and its item Streets of Amsterdam from this week while visiting Jan Maijenstraat. Spoken text is in Dutch.

Tulips From Amsterdam

“When spring comes I will send you tulips from Amsterdam,” is part of the text of the famous song of Herman Emmink from 1957. For centuries, we consider the tulip as a traditional Dutch flower, but originally the tulip comes from Central Asia and arrived via Turkey to Holland in the sixteenth century. Now the tulip is, beside the clog and mill, a national symbol of the Netherlands.

Majolica plate and tile with tulip(s), circa 1625-1650
Majolica plate and tile with tulip(s), circa 1625-1650

At the end of the sixteenth century, the tulip in the Low Countries was known by a select few. These were mostly botanists and collectors. But from 1600 the flower quickly gained popularity. The bulb was a coveted trade and speculation object. In the thirties of the seventeenth century, trade and speculation took on such proportions that a single tulip bulb sometimes sold for thousands of guilders. A bulb was worth as much as an Amsterdam canalhouse. Inevitably the bubble burst in 1637. Many speculators saw dissipate their expected profit and got into financial difficulties.

Nevertheless, the tulip remains popular. On still life paintings the flower is still a regularly subject. But also on ceramics and tiles this beloved flower was widely applied. In several buildings in Amsterdam are reflected tulip motifs. In Agnietenkapel (St Agnes Chapel), the cradle of the University of Amsterdam, the beams and the ceiling of the auditoriums in the seventeenth century were decorated with tendrils and tulip motifs.

Decorative metalwork skylight at Keizersgracht 105
Decorative metalwork skylight at Keizersgracht 105

But also in 20th-century buildings this flower is immortalized. A wonderful example of wrought iron can be found in the building on Keizersgracht 105 by architect F. A. Warners who in 1938 designed it for broadcasting corporatrion AVRO. Between the vestibule and the wide aisle is an enclosed porch set with sidelights and transom with ornamental ironwork. The ironwork of the transom is fitted with a tulip motif.

And anno 2016, the tulip is still loved. Consider the Tulip Day on Dam Square, which is organized annually to kick off the tulip season or the many tourists who can visit the Keukenhof starting again today. This year the theme of the flower park is: The Golden Age. In Amsterdam the Tulip Festival is organized, this year its the second edition in April, the festival is hoping for a new tulip craze, but without the dramatic consequences of yesteryear.

Cuypers Passage @ Amsterdam Central Station

The Cuypers Passage is the name of the new tunnel at Amsterdam Central Station that connects the city and the waters of the IJ-waterway. Since the end of 2015 it has been used by large numbers of cyclists, some 15,000 daily, and pedestrians 24 hours a day. This ‘slow traffic corridor’ was exactly what many users of the city felt was lacking. What once was by necessity a left or right turn is now, at long last, straight ahead. The tunnel is clad on one side by nearly 80,000 Delft Blue tiles: a true Dutch spectacle at a central spot in Amsterdam.

The tunnel is 110 metres long, ten metres wide and three metres high. Its design makes a clear division between the two modes of travel. By making the pedestrian level appreciably higher than the cycleway, pedestrians know where they have to be and feel safe there. Cyclists enjoy the spatial sensation of a rapid through route, accompanied by a continuous run of LED lamps along the raised edge of the footpath. The pedestrian path has a smooth finish of handmade glazed ceramic tiles. The cycleway by contrast has a rougher, open finish of black sound-absorbing asphalt and steel gratings. This is to enhance user comfort, given the tunnel’s concrete structure and great length. The gratings are impossible to litter with posters and flyers and their open structure reduces the risk of graffiti.

Along the footpath wall is a tile tableau designed by Irma Boom Office. The design steps off from a restored work by the Rotterdam tile painter Cornelis Boumeester (1652-1733). His tile panel depicting the Warship Rotterdam and the Herring Fleet is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Irma Boom replaced the original crest on the stern with the Amsterdam coat of arms. The cyclist or pedestrian leaves the old historic part of Amsterdam through Cuyperspassage and heads towards ‘new Amsterdam’ in the north, or vice versa. The tableau fades away towards the IJ-river, the lines of the original work gradually dissolving. Then it builds up again in an abstract form from light to dark blue, as if encouraging cyclists to slow down as the ferry comes into view. Its drawn lines and pixels also visualize the transition in art from the old to the new. The ceramic company, Royal Tichelaar Makkum, spent five years making the 46,000 wall tiles for the tableau, as well as 33,000 floor tiles, in the traditional Dutch tile size of 13 x 13 cm. In it, we see large and small merchant vessels, herring busses with nets in place, churning waves, gulls. The whole recalls old kitchens in Amsterdam canal houses, so that the tunnel is experienced as a safe place – as an urban room.

The Cuyperspassage is part of the overall master plan for Amsterdam Central Station – a project by Benthem Crouwel Architects in collaboration with Irma Boom , commissioned by the Municipality of Amsterdam, ProRail and Nederlandse Spoorwegen.

100th Anniversary Amsterdam School

The Amsterdam School, Amsterdam’s famous architectural style from the ’10s and ‘20s of the last century, was founded 100 years ago. To celebrate, the city organizes this year various events, meetings and exhibitions. For Open Monument Day Amsterdam they made it this year’s theme, Amsterdam School.

On February 24, Alderman Monuments Kajsa Ollongren, opened the anniversary year at the Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam. “We are here in one of the finest examples of the Amsterdam School,” said Ollongren at the hotel, which is located in ‘Het Scheepvaarthuis’ (Shipping House) on Prins Hendrikkade. “And fortunately my predecessors decided not only on large impressive buildings like this one, but also to build housing for Amsterdam in this beautiful historic style. I’m still proud of it.”


The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam School Museum Het Schip, Amsterdam Centre for Architecture, City of Amsterdam Monuments and Archaeology, Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Federation of Housing Corporations organize in this jubilee year events, meetings and exhibitions.

Some examples:
Stedelijk Museum presents the first museum survey of interior designs of the Amsterdam School ‘Living in the Amsterdam School. Designs for the interior 1910-1930 “(April 9 – August 28, 2016)
Amsterdam Centre for Architecture shows the influence of seeing the Amsterdam School in “One Hundred Years of Inspiration – Influence of the Amsterdam School of contemporary building ‘(April 14 – September 30, 2016)
Amsterdam School Museum Het Schip opens mid-April, its major expansion into residential living in Spaarndammer neighborhood and organizes every day a bus tour “Along the Building and Decorative Art of the Amsterdam School, which runs from Museum Het Schip towards Stedelijk Museum, through typical Amsterdam School areas.
Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam, in the former Scheepvaarthuis which opened in 1916, where the Amsterdam School as a movement got its name, organizes a Tour Scheepvaarthuis. The tour with afternoon tea/lunch and entrance to Amsterdam School Museum Het Schip. The package Amsterdam School 100 Years: includes accommodation in a typical Amsterdam School room, with entrance to Stedelijk Museum and/or Amsterdam School Museum Ship (WiFi, mini bar, spa and cycling are also included)

Open Monuments Day Amsterdam celebrates its thirtieth anniversary and pays tribute to the Amsterdam School. There are five additional open house events of an Amsterdam School Monument of the Month on: April 10, May 8, June 12, July 10 and August 14, 2016

Open Monuments Day Amsterdam is on September 10 and 11, 2016

In the early 20th century Amsterdam is bustling. Young designers, artists, architects, but also politicians (trade union) directors fiddle with the established order to shape a better society. This leads to an explosion of dynamism, creativity, new forms and materials. With the completion of Het Scheepvaarthuis (Shipping House) in 1916, a name was created for this group: The Amsterdam School. In this style the most assignments came from housing associations who wanted better housing for workers. The social housing of the Amsterdam School is one of the highlights of the Dutch architecture and is still admired throughout the city. Exactly one hundred years later, we celebrate in Amsterdam, The Year of the Amsterdam School.

Disney Princesses In The Renaissance

Coupling contemporary cultural references and historic fine art techniques, Bangkok-based designer Thunyamon Charoensuttikul has realized a series titled ‘Disney princesses in the Renaissance’. The digital paintings recreate some of Disney’s most beloved characters in the style of 15th century portraiture. Dark backdrops with minimal detail echo the aesthetic qualities of the artistic era, while a textured paint crackle effect mimics the time-worn personalities of renaissance paintings. The figures situated at the center of the frame each bear the same facial features and costumes as their animated counterparts, yet are distinctly ‘flattened’ in appearance, their usual wide smiles swapped with modestly parted lips. See characters from Snow White to Cinderella rendered as renaissance ladies, below.