Furniture and Interactive Wall for the Bonnefantenmuseum

viz3_mozaiekFor 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.

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Zeeslag!/Naval Battle at the Dutch Navy Museum in Den Helder

photo by Digidaan

photo by Digidaan

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.

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Design for the Mauritshuis, British Royal Collection

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.

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Carnaval Wereldwijd / Carnival Worldwide in the Afrika Museum

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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.

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More Photos from “Polder-Western” Brimstone

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.

Todd gives a tour in NEMO

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!

Our Delta Experience opens at DeltaPark Neeltje Jans

neeltje_jans_hero-974x584So 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 designer, 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.

 

Hoisting Cabin Girders

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.

Cabin in the Woods, Klamath County, Oregon

galleryThumbsCapture_Cabin1It will come as no surprise that the “we” at T. van Hulzen design is often just myself. True, working in symbiosis with Studio Louter in Amsterdam means that with each project there’s a whole team involved doing production, content, multimedia, etc.  But rarely do I get around to doing a project that is just for myself.  That changed this past September and October when I started building my own ‘cabin in the woods’. More specifically, it’s to be a log cabin in Klamath County, Oregon, USA, on the edge of the pine forests surrounding Fourmile Flats, one of the great seasonal moorlands of the Southern Cascades. Fourmile Flats Ranch belongs —not incidentally— to my generous parents. Granting their children land is of course a sinister ploy to spend more time with them. In their defence, it’s a magical land, volcanic and densely forested at 1300 meters above sea level (4300 ft) on the eastern flank of the Cascade Range and bounded on all sides by National Forest and designated wilderness.

There is of course an architectural concept. I couldn’t just let it be a run of the mill log cabin. Continue reading

Set designs for Bloed, Zweet & Tranen


I was so busy I neglected to post anything about a brief stint last year as Set Designer for the Dutch feature film Bloed, Zweet & Tranen about the life of the popular blue-collar folk-hero and singer Andre Hazes.  The sets were simple, under the direction of production designer and old colleague/friend Alfred Schaaf.  Alfred called to see if I was interested in a bit of work, and since it had been so long since I had done proper film work as a designer, it seemed like it could be fun. We recreated an old record store, a music studio, a television studio and some older apartment buildings in the (then) working class neighborhood of Amsterdam, De Pijp. And in the end I got to do some handwork as well, painting a 3×3 meter canvas as an artistic early 60’s backdrop in a film studio.

Here’s a trailer for Bloed, Zweet en Tranen.

Amsterdam Light Festival 2014-15

Amsterdam Light Festival 2014-15 This year’s edition of the Amsterdam Light Festival will include another work by Todd van Hulzen and Studio Louter.  This year we’ve created a projection on the round surface of Renzo Piano’s NEMO Science Center, which people also call the “bow”, as in ship’s bow.

The objective was to make a sliding graphic for a beamer that projects through rolls of acetate, something like a cross between a conventional slide projector and a film roll.  The result is an analog scrolling animation. We did the work on invitation from NEMO itself and were supplied with a projector from the vendor Pani.  We were asked to make a design that was relevant somehow to the current exhibition “Wereld van Vormen”, an exhibit on the subject of mathematics and geometry. Since we were the ones to actually do the design of that show, it all just kind of fell into place. Although, not without due effort.

The concept is that the world can be broken down into mathematical elements and pure shapes.  We’ve chosen to create an abstraction of the city, in particular a city like Amsterdam.  There are some bridges and stepped gables, and at the end the buildings pull out of frame and reveal the piles upon which they are built.

See this fantastic time-lapse film of the festival.  Our project is at 1:01.
 

Soft Opening of a World Wonder

P9255888World of Shapes is the name of a big, new, permanent exhibition designed by Todd van Hulzen Design at NEMO Science Center in Amsterdam.  Wereld van Vormen, in Dutch, is all about geometry, mathematics and the world we live in.  The “soft” opening was Thursday 24 September, and even though there are a few elements that need fine tuning after the work crews leave, it’s up and running and can already be visited during normal hours.  When the final batch of spotlights arrive we can put the cherry on the cake, as it were.

Everything around us is either made of geometry of can be reduced to a kind  of mathematics.  But the world of mathematics, particularly from a classical standpoint, encompasses more that just numbers and angles, it also includes such almost arcane subjects as proportions, perspective and optical illusions. Even phenomena that seem to be mere matters of perception can be explained through the clarity of mathematics and accurate measurement.

Todd van Hulzen design created the designs for the ‘decor’ of the exhibition.  But first we came up with the overall “total concept” in cooperation with our dependable creative partner Studio Louter.  Studio Louter also created the marvelous digital applications and interactive games. Drumming up a complete concept is harder than it may look, considering all of the disparate parts involved. We unified it in this case with the Universal, meaning we created a kind of self referential world all constructed out of triangles and hexagons.  In fact we created something that had never really been done at NEMO, and that is create an exhibit that is truly a sum of its parts instead of a collection of loose interactive elements.  The client was thrilled, the visitors are entertained, and we are taking a deep breath until the next project.

The Stern Carving of the Royal Charles

P6185210newIt’s rare that I do any sculpture work anymore for film like I used to.  But this particular assignment really appealed to me for reasons that have nothing to do with money: recreate the stern carvings of the royal flagship that Michiel De Ruyter seized and towed from Chatham during his great naval triumph over the English at the Raid of the Medway in 1667. It just seemed to historically interesting to ignore. The film in question is the Dutch production “Michiel de Ruyter” being filmed in Zeeland (the Dutch province) and the wharves of Lelystad.  But the relevant scene concerns De Ruyter’s presentation of his trophy, the royal stern carvings, to the States General of the United Provinces, which was the republican government of the Netherlands at the time. This was being filmed in gothic city hall of Middelburg in Zeeland.

The original stern carvings, or “counter” as it’s officially called, are hanging in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in a gallery devoted to the De Ruyter era.  I had to scale it down a little bit for technical reasons (the original is 2½ x 3½ meters) but even making it out of high density polyurethane foam I still had an enormous challenge of volume.  With an assistant Rik and some more of the great folks in the De Ruyter art department we managed to get the still wet project in just under the wire. It was heroic!  And it looked beautiful in the (artificial) late afternoon light of the location in Middleburg.

Looking forward to viewing the film when it’s released.

The Corpses of the Brothers De Witt

!cid_C7E832DB-C4DA-4524-B4AA-FBFE04EECCC1Another sculpture assignment I received from the production of the film “Michiel de Ruyter” was to recreate the cruelly lynched bodies of the brothers De Witt, a prominent Dutch politician from the 16th century and his brother who were attacked by an Orangist mob and lynched in the Hague.  Obviously there’s a serious story here, and I won’t try to commit it to this page (read it here), but it was famous and compelling enough to make me want to take up the job.

You might ask, why not just use actors?  But these corpses had to be eviscerated and lacerated to such a degree that that would be impractical. But engaging the services of one of the excellent special effects studios was budgetarily out of the question.  A compromise was found: me.  The production designer Ruben Schwarz and myself settled on the idea of culling various body parts from display mannequins, cutting them up and reattaching them.  Then we covered them with layers of hard casting wax colored with powdered pigments (from the paint mill De Kat).  This allowed us to cut into the surface skin to expose flesh.  Wax is actually quite forgiving, as long as  you aren’t filming in the extreme heat of the day.  Using wax kept the costs down and is a rather low-threshold material to work with.  We were rather pleased with the results, and so was the director.