Carnaval Wereldwijd / Carnival Worldwide in the Afrika Musuem

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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.

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.

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

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.

Exhibit “Einmal Niederlande und Zurück” opens in Münster, Germany

“Einmal Niederlande und Zurück” is an exhibition that Todd van Hulzen Design created at the Haus der Niederlande in Münster, Germany about German areas under Dutch control after the Second World War. Artifacts and archive materials tell the story of Dutch indignation, retribution and dreams of expansion after the war, as well as the life of Germans living under Dutch rule, cultural shifts and enduring identity. Continue reading

V. Scans from Colling’s Gothic Ornaments

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Title: Plates from Colling’s Gothic Ornaments, vols. I & II
Author: James Kellaway Colling (1816 – 1905)
Subject: Gothic Architectural ornaments
Year: 1847
Source: Personal collection

Todd van Hulzen shares his scans and files from historic archives on the subjects of architecture and the arts

My recent trip to Münster, Germany reignited an old flame. That goes back to my late teens when I first picked up a book at a used book store in Grants Pass, Oregon titled “Deutsche Kunst” by Wilhelm Müseler. This passion was historic architecture in general, and Gothic architecture in particular. Years later, in 2006, I had the dreamed-of opportunity to actually “build” an entire Gothic church and monastery for the digitally generated sets of the Canadian fantasy television series “Sanctuary”. Even though there was no brick or mortar involved, it allowed me to delve deeply into the spirit and the bones of medieval architecture. Ogival arches, hammerbeam ceilings, bundled columns, and world of forgotten construction techniques. It also allowed me to amass quite a library on the subject, my favorite of which was Viollet le Duc’s encyclopedia on architecture. This you can consult yourself on Wikisource. Marvelous! Here I will share scans from a book I have on Gothic ornament by James Colling from that heyday of Gothic revival, the Victorian Era. Many lovely plates with gilded highlights which have to be turned page by dusty page to be really appreciated.

Click here for the gallery

Amsterdam GVB Streetcar now rolling with our designs on it.

With all the commotion around the opening of “Temporal Tower” we almost forgot that there was an Amsterdam tram (streetcar) of the GVB (Municipal Transport Company) about to roll out with our name on it. And sure enough, there she is.  Dirk Bertels of Studio Louter and Todd van Hulzen worked together on the concept, which is part of the marketing and sponsorship between the GVB and the Amsterdam Light Festival. But Dirk did all of the actual hard work, Todd just stood back and watched and gave self-evident advice. What looks like a white sticker is actually light-reflective film that lights up when directly lit by traffic lights. We settled on light-reflective film after a long search for materials, from glow-in-the-dark to holographic foil. Now that it’s going to be on the rails, we are curious to see if it will make an impression. But our names are printed on it, and that’s what we’re the most proud of. On the rear is a section of illustration dedicated to the Temporal Tower. You can see the scaffolding. Let us know if you see it around.

The Haringpakkerstoren “rebuilt” in scaffolding and light

compositeWe can’t describe how giddy and proud we are of our new big baby, the impressive reconstruction of the historic Haringpakkerstoren (Herring Packers’ Tower).  Of course our tower is not made of masonry and wood, but of scaffolding, mesh, and most importantly, light.  30 meters high (100 feet), the tower, which we call “Temporal Tower” rises up along the quays of the old harbor of Amsterdam, adjacent to the Central Station and is lit by 36 LED arrays dispersed around the spire.  The light is very gradually animated in something of a churning cycle of one color group.  Each week we will change the color scheme and configuration.  For more information on the history of this tower, the original of which was demolished in 1829, see some of the entries below.  For now we just want to publish some of the most recent photo’s of this little giant. There are more to come, as the project is getting quite a lot of media attention. Continue reading

The Making of “Temporal Tower”

Here are some pictures of our tower project in the making.  The first step was agreeing on a budget and a technical design, which we ploddingly accomplished with our world-class international scaffolder StageCo.  Then with the help of a crane, postponed several days due to a fierce storm, we hoisted the sections which we had built at street level into position.  After that came the mesh wrap.  We were already pretty charmed by the pictures of the tower with only scaffolding and no wrapping.  Now the story is complete, but we secretly long for the purity of the scaffolding on its own.  What do you thinnk?

And here is a video interview I did, explaining the concept in the early stages:

 

Wayang Kulit Belanda: shadow puppets of Dutch characters in Indonesian style.

For an installation in Het Geheugenpaleis (Palace of Memory,) currently on exhibit at the Dutch National Archives in the Hague, Todd created a series of shadow puppets based on both caricatures of Dutch “types” and on traditional Indonesian style shadow puppets made of punched leather, or Wayang Kulit.  This was in turn for the archival theme “Opgevangen in de spruitjeslucht”. This treats the subject of the repatriation, often forced, and the reception of Dutch colonials and  Dutch subjects from Indonesia after Indonesian independence.  Instead of the traditional subjects from Indonesian Wayang Kulit drawn from the Bhagavad Gita or Mahabharata, we see here much less heroic figures drawn from Dutch life and fantasy: for instance Saint Nicholas, but also a bicycling preacher, a public servant, and a housewife in traditional attire with a rather threatening cheese slicer.  In the middle we see a simple and proud “Indisch” woman who is the hero of a digital game being played in a console just in front of the display.  The puppets were installed within the cardboard boxes along the wall, and each illuminated independently with LED lamps.

Finally a National History Museum at the National Archives: a sustainable festival of the Past.

 

Anne-Reitsmacollage

Photo Anne Reitsma

After three years of hard work, the Geheugenpaleis (Palace of Memory) has come to completion. This project represents the crowning achievement of not only our studio, but of the long term ambitions of the National Archives itself. It is grand, evocative, fascinating, touching and above all it offers deep immersion into the stuff of archives and the stuff of history. T. van Hulzen Design and Studio Louter were engaged from the early beginnings to help forge a sound program, a gripping concept and a cohesive design. We’ve conceived a Memory Palace like no other, which like Bluebeard’s castle offers mysteries behind every door, a world of history in every archival box. 11  uniquely decorated chambers, enlivened by 11 creative installations (music, documentary, video, radio-show, etc.) surround a central “courtyard” allowing for that “a la carte” feel that festivals have. Every room has a unique experience and a unique interpretation of the material, but it is all tied into the history and the utility of the Archive itself.

From a design point of view, we are particularly proud of our all-cardboard “fortress”—this for all the physical qualities that paper and card have to offer: warmth, acoustics, recyclability, and sustainability.  Never have we created so much volume with so little mass. An exhibition of 800 square meters was virtually carted in on two pallets of stacked and folded cardboard boxes. This cardboard, supplied by IHC interior builders, is recycled and emission free. And after the exhibition is retired at the end of 2014 the whole exhibit will be sent to the recycler yet again, to be chipped, separated, and reprocessed. This is a stark difference with the conventional waste created by an exhibition made of wood, plywood, plaster and paint. And with the exception of the printed information panels, all our color is created with the use of filtered LEDs; so no paint required.

Yet not only is our cardboard solution particularly sustainable, it looks remarkable too. The cardboard carries one of the central tropes of the exhibition: a memory palace created of stacked archival boxes, a kind of dream-idea of the Past, made concrete, as if you are walking through Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities or one of Borges’ fantasy libraries. By stacking hundreds of boxes in an oblique bond, we create patterns that catch the colored light in continuously changing waves. Continue reading

Amsterdam Light Festival: Todd van Hulzen creates “Temporal Tower”

TemporalTower2_ToddvanHulzen_copyrightA lot has happened in the last few months, and we’ve been missing the chance to update. One of the most significant things is the fact that Todd van Hulzen was selected, with Studio Louter, to produce their concept for the Amsterdam Light Festival. This is a new annual festival of light art in the capital and we’ve come up with a plan that was compelling enough that it came out on top of the jury’s selection list. It’s called Temporal Tower, and it’s both and homage to one of the vanished clock-towers of the Amsterdam architect Hendrik de Keyser, and also an exploration of the place of monuments in the public space. And of course it’s supposed to be a delight for the eye in the cold winter months.

While we work out the budget and negotiate with the city about its placement, we are fine-tuning our design for the tower. We are particularly working with a lighting technician and a scaffolding builder who are going to be those chiefly responsible for the construction and the impact.

Go to the website of the Amsterdam Light Festival for more information.

For the Holidays: drawings for Vondel’s Gysbrecht van Aemstel

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This gallery contains 46 photos.

It’s an old Amsterdam tradition that has fallen somewhat in disuse: staging a performance of Joost van den Vondel’s drama, Gysbrecht van Æmstel on New Years Day. In 2008 Todd van Hulzen created a series of scene sketches and story-boards for … Continue reading