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.
It 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. Call it designer’s pride. The idea is to build a structure on top of a raised platform. This fulfills a number of wishes. One is for it to be a proper wildlife viewing station, another is to have as little impact on the landscape as possible, then there’s the wish to be raised above the elements (flooding in spring and deep snow in winter) and lastly it’s meant to improve the view of iconic Mount McLoughlin in the near distance. To this end I still have to clear 15 acres of scrub pine forest and harvestable poplars (aspen and cottonwood.)
Phase one is to build the platform. When I left on November 2, we—my father and I— had achieved the minimum of what I had wanted. This involved harvesting my own materials, clearing the landscape of scrub and burn piles, quarrying some rock, setting foundations, building piers and hoisting the main girders. We also made some beginnings on milling our own planks and beams with an Alaska sawmill we had acquired. This allows one to mill on the spot on uneven terrain.
It is obviously a project in flux. The end designs have not been determined, and I am leaving it to some degree to the many variables that enter into the equation. In that sense it’s a very organic process. The joy is in the hard work and the extraction of ones own materials. And let’s not forget the euphoria that comes from camping in the great outdoors for 5 weeks on end, cutting firewood, clearing brush, stoking campfires and cooking rough.
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.
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.
World 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.
That marvelous, terrifying moment has arrived for our project at the NEMO Science Center: the first concrete installations are taking place. No longer a design process in which to endlessly vacillate between possibilities, we now have incontrovertible real objects being installed and constructed. The exhibit furniture and elements are being constructed in Nüremburg, Germany, while the new inlaid linoleum floor is being installed on location at NEMO. Progress, people! After September 20 on view for the public in all its glory.
It’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.