| Todd van Hulzen creates decors for exhibits with strong presentation and clear thematics which meet the core educational demands of client-institutions. His projects are informed by a love of history, technique, design and a quest for originality.
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|Todd has worked in the film industry since 1990 as art director, set designer and fine artist. A connoisseur of architectural history and fine arts, Todd created designs for films such as Girl with a Pearl Earring and the Gothic-Sci-Fi series Sanctuary.
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|Originally a fine artist todd has variously worked professionally as a large-scale sculptor, fine artist, illustrator, portraitist and copyist. He has worked for private clients in the USA and Italy, as well as for film and stage productions.
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Hoogeveen, a community on the higher moors of the eastern Netherlands, is consolidating its historic collections with its public library and needed a suitable exhibition ‘set’ to inaugurate the first phase of the transition. Now that we’re moving onto the second phase of a permanent housing for the collection, we look back at the original temporary project.
TvH made the design with favorite partner, Studio Louter (all while billeted in a camper in the mountains of Southern Oregon, USA.) This was to be an affordable, easily constructed decor designed to accent the temporary and shiftable character of the wharves of Hoogeveen: chiefly using accessible materials such as crates and pallets to showcase the objects “in transito”, as if waiting for their next home. Studio Louter created a graphic style that mixed the contemporary and historical, and we scattered elements of this throughout the decor, stenciled onto crates and showcases.
This lightweight design turned out to be so effective that we are considering the elements of it which will become permanent in the second phase of the project.
For the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht TvH created designs for an interactive “mosaic wall” and a number of collapsible furniture units.
The wall consists of magnetic tiles printed with imagery chosen out of the collection of the museum. The Bonnefantenmuseum has a world class array of baroque religious paintings, even if it’s main source of pride is its collection of medieval ecclesiastical art. These colorful paintings lend themselves well to colorful blow-ups of several meters high. However, the magnetic tiles are meant to be interchanged so that what once was 8 recognizable paintings becomes a new work created by visitors. Tiles of course can be assembled in endless new ways, but some possibilities are: arrange them by color, arrange them by detail, and of course arrange them in an attempt to recreate the original painting. Any result shows an exciting jigsaw puzzle.
The museum also needed flexible furniture, preferably collapsible, to fill a narrow hall between exhibition spaces. The main purpose of the space is to showcase the efforts of the museum’s youth outreach project. It needed to be fun, easy, affordable, new and flexible. TvH created a design that is made of simple flat-pack elements, printed with colors and patterns drawn from Aldo Rossi’s museum architecture, as well as visual motifs from the building (the famous Bonnefanten dome) and the collection (the Gothic arch.)
We were pleased with the design solutions as well as the quality of the renderings themselves.
The fate of the seaman is never certain. Will it be victory or defeat? One admiral ascends to national Valhalla, the other is to be commemorated for his vain valor. The sailors and marines have little choice but to follow the leader. Zeeslag/Naval Battle explores the unpredictable chances for valor or defeat through the eyes of average seamen during two famous sea battles. Todd van Hulzen Design and Studio Louter created a clear dichotomized concept with an accent on the element of fate. Todd van Hulzen produced the architecture,the styling, and —with Studio Louter and the illustrator Hisko Hulsing— more than 700 square meters in graphic printwork.
The show opens onto a central ‘rotonda’ on which a two sided coin spins eternally, as it were, one with the head of victory and one with the head of defeat. This represents the uncertain lot of a navy man.
The first of the battles was the Battle of Chatham, otherwise known in English as the Raid on the Medway. This was a daring and brash raid on the English fleet moored in the mouth of the Thames during the Second Anglo-Dutch war 1667. The Dutch warships, under the national hero Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, burned the English armada in its home port, seized the crown ship the Royal Charles, and towed her back to Holland as bounty. (Note: Todd van Hulzen also made on request a replica of the ship’s sculpted stern for the film Michiel de Ruyter. See below.) This exhibition includes 4 action experiences, all heroic and kid-friendly, including a shooting canon and a rowboat. We wrap it up with a chamber devoted to “glory”, that ambiguous historic creation.
The second battle, one also for the history books, was the disastrous defeat of the Dutch fleet, along with the ships of several allies, in the Java Sea at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Navy during World War II. The Commander of the allied campaign, rear-admiral Karel Doorman, perished in the campaign and the defeat resulted in the Japanese occupation of the entire Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. This exhibition required much more tact and subtlety. It is more an homage on the brave men who, mostly, perished in this battle. It ends in a space devoted to those names.
For those of you who can’t make it up to Den Helder (North Holland) to see our latest exhibition “Zeeslag! / Naval Battle!” we’ve made a walkthrough video of the exhibition for you.
The KNMP is the branch organisation of Dutch pharmacists. To celebrate their 175th year they commissioned Studio Louter and Todd van Hulzen to create multimedia consoles to be displayed in changing locations, the first of which was the University botanical gardens of Utrecht. The consoles were composed of a pillar, modelled after Greek stelle and herms, plus a multimedia app to be played either as a download or on a tablet on location. Each stelle featured a unique low relief sculpture representing the subject of each console game. The graphics and character design for these were directed by Dirk Bertels at Studio Louter.
Not every pitch is a winner. We could dedicate a monthly post to all of the marvelous fish that got away. The odds are simply not always in your favor, and everyone knows this before going in on a design tender. Still, it’s a shame to have the designs disappear into oblivion.
We were particularly proud of designs we made for the Mauritshuis in the Hague. This prestigious museum hosted a show of paintings from the British Royal collection of Dutch Masters and was searching for a decor that was innovative and emotional. This is a very difficult thing to achieve in a traditional museum if you also want your paintings to shine without competition from your interior design. We gave it a shot.
The Carnival season is upon us, and the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal (Netherlands) is devoting an exhibition this year to the phenomenon “Carnival” around the globe. Appropriately the museum places an accent on Carnival traditions among African inflected cultures in the Americas: Brazil, New Orleans, Haïti, and ancient traditions in Africa itself. But let’s not forget how we do it here in the Netherlands either. Wherever you celebrate, there are some golden threads running through all manifestations of Carnival: masquerades, seasonal rites and general “transgressional” behaviour.
Todd van Hulzen Design created a design for the exhibition finely tuned to the particulars of the museum space, the needs of the visitor and the emotions of the narrative. The story goes: Carnival worldwide is more than you know, familiar but strange, irreverent but ceremonial, ancient but continually reinventing itself.
To enter the exhibition we pass through a carnivalesque maw in a wall that separates the show from the entry corridor. This giant mouth is the entry into another world, the world upside-down. In the large exhibition hall called the “Atrium”, which is full of light, we nested all of the colorful objects —floats, costumes, maquettes— in a background of white and grey. The motif that repeats throughout the exhibition is the lozenge, or diamond. This is a reference to the tradition of jesters and fools dressed in harlequin suits, as well as the ancient origins of the harlequin itself. In the large Atrium we find smaller spaces, the clubhouses of three different associations: the locals, Groesbeek; the bistro-gallery in New Orleans; and the hectic workshop in Rio de Janeiro. The diamond motif is continued into the next rooms which are low and dark. Here are the objects that exude a bit more mystery, and also have lower light requirements. In the high vide of this space we find an ascending pyramid of carnival costumes from Brazil and Africa. And on the mezzanine we continue to the end, where we have traditions of closure: burning, purification and the clean-up.
Thanks to a great team at the Afrika Museum, and to Wendy Jansen, project coördinatrix extraordinaire.
In 2015 I worked as an art director and set designer on the Dutch Western Brimstone, starring Guy Pearce, Dakota Fanning, Kit Harrington and Carice van Houten. Now that it’s in movie theaters and the reviews are coming in (one thing everyone agrees on: it’s memorable) I thought I would share some more set shots. The film has been singled out for its dark tone and its restrained but authentic-feeling architecture. The mood was set by production designer Floris Vos, and he kept to his guns, as they say, throughout the project by making sure we kept it simple. The film was shot largely on location in Germany with a Dutch and German crew.
Science Center NEMO has made a captivating little video of the revolving sun that we conceived for the permanent exhibit World of Forms.
This year Todd van Hulzen and Studio Louter are submitting some projects together for various awards. For one particular international award we made a little video tour of the new permanent installation at NEMO: World of Shapes / Wereld van vormen. Narrated by yours truly!
So far only positive reviews for our big permanent installation “Dutch Delta Experience” in Zeeland. DeltaPark Neeltje Jans commissioned Todd van Hulzen and Studio Louter to create a large, dynamic visitor experience in their visitors’ center located on the great storm barrier accross the delta of Zeeland. Our answer was to create a filmed panorama of 270 degrees. Here we immerse the visitor in the dark world that was the disastrous night in February 1953 when a succession of dykes broke during a severe storm, thereafter permanently etching itself into the Dutch psyche. When one refers to the “flood disaster” we know they speak of 1953. Todd van Hulzen, as artistic director and de
signer, determined the size, shape, feeling and historical integrity of the whole. Studio Louter created the storyline and directed the filming and Sho Sho in Amsterdam created the digital animations.
First seen from the viewpoint of a child’s room as the storm gathers momentum, then from upon the sea-dyke as waters rush in and sweep away everything in their path. Finally we see the determination of the Dutch people to protect their country through heroic engineering and (heroic) unanimous cooperation.
In this video, in Dutch, you can get an idea of the elements of the experience.
The concept of the Panorama is actually quite old. We were inspired by the big Panorama Mesdag in the Hague, an original painted 12 meter high Panorama, following the rage in the late 19th century. At the time it was the closest you could come to an immersive artificial experience. What we add to the experience is the element of time. This means that our panorama contains a story that unfolds as you stand before it. WInds blow, shutters creak, children scream, waters lap at your feet.
We went through many phases to arrive at our end product, but we are quite satisfied. Thank you Neeltje Jans.
Intitial filming is wrapping up in Germany today for Martin Koolhoven’s film Brimstone, starring Guy Pearce, Dakota Fanning and Kit Harrington. Production has released a few photos of the unfinished sets that I designed with Floris Vos, so I’m taking the liberty of putting out a few photos of my own without giving away too much.
For several months this year I made sketches, drawings and schematics of Western towns and farms, both interiors and exteriors to be built either in the Studio in Berlin or on location in the German countryside. As Supervising Art Director I went to Berlin to oversee building for a few weeks in the studio. But most credit has to go to the styling talents of Floris Vos, who as Production Designer has had to endure the slings and arrows of a typically volatile production process to get us all to this place where we can say, Gosh, that looks beautiful!
Of course you might ask, “What? A German Western?” The obvious answer is “Why not?” and technically speaking it’s a Dutch/German Western, as the director and much of the crew are Dutch.
When the film comes out I will be able to post more production shots. Enjoy.
A short video of my father, Alvin Van Hulzen, winching up the whole timber girders that are going to make the raised floor of my future cabin in Klamath County, Oregon. The beams probably weigh about a ton each, being about 26 feet long and 16 inches in diameter (800cm x 40cm). Our makeshift crane, which was anchored pretty soundly with guy-wires still can be heard creaking under the compression. Rather unnerving, to be sure, but it all went well. Hats off to Dad’s enginering instincts.