Many post-war design drawings, pamphlets and posters in Het Nieuwe Instituut’s archives incorporate rub-down lettering or brightly coloured self-adhesive plastic foils. During this edition of Archive Explorations, experts on architecture, animated films and 1970s protest culture explore the possibilities and use of these materials from historical and contemporary perspectives. The evening is one of the outcomes of Invented from Copies, one of the ongoing research projects in the context of Disclosing Architecture.
The potential of these materials, patented in 1924 for use in graphic design, was explored in the decades that followed by people working in a variety of creative disciplines, including the visual arts, film and animation, comics and (punk) music, architecture and design. Companies like Letraset, Mecanorma and Zip-A-Tone competed for market dominance with their ever-expanding ranges of fonts, patterns, symbols and colourful plastic foils. Users praised the liberating effects of these materials: they were readily available, easy to apply and a visual expression the cultural renewal people were looking for. But did the ready availability of these instant products perhaps lead to a standardised and constraining visual and design culture?
Frans Hooijkaas, who worked at the Van den Broek & Bakema architecture office from 1960 to 1990, examines the cinematic effect of the plastic foils in the architectural designs of the firm. In these designs, the ‘serial vision’ of the illustrator and urban designer Gordon Cullen was the main source of inspiration.
Researcher Mette Peters sheds light on the role of plastic cels in the animated films of Jacques Verbeek and Karin Wiertz. Jeroen de Vries – designer, artist and 1970s protest activist and eyewitness – speculates about possible relationships between instant plastic design materials and social engagement.
Ellen Smit, curator of the heritage department, uses instant lettering and plastic films in the archive to examine unexpected connections between various archive sources, creating space for new questions and speculations. Can different disciplines’ fascination for the same material contribute to collective conceptual inspiration and innovation?
Invented from Copies
Invented from Copies is part of a series of research projects under the name Rethinking the Collection, which explores the archive’s historical as well as future cultural value from fresh and different perspectives. Invented from Copies examines an undervalued element of the archive collection: the architectural reproduction. Het Nieuwe Instituut explores how these reproduction techniques relate to the design process and to design culture. Conventional research generally treats architectural reproductions either in terms of techniques and materials, or of art history, with attention only to what is depicted. Invented from Copy focuses on the intersection of both aspects and thus speculates on possible new meanings of the copy as a cultural vector.
Disclosing Architecture is a six-year programme, initiated in 2019, to improve the visibility and accessibility of the architecture collection. It has been made possible by a one-off investment from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. In addition to projects in the field of restoration, conservation and digitisation, the programme also initiates research projects. Disclosing Architecture looks at the collection of archives from possible new perspectives in order to reformulate the collections policy and develop new ways of evaluating historical sources.
The National Collection for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning offers insights into the relationship between Dutch society and design culture over the past 130 years. The archive contains over four million drawings, sketches, models, letters, photographs, posters and newspaper clippings. These contain countless stories, including many which have remained hidden until now because nobody has noticed them. For each Archive Explorations evening, people from a variety of backgrounds are invited to bring new perspectives to a range of themes.
Frans Hooykaas studied at the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam and worked at the Van de Broek & Bakema architecture office from 1961 to 1990, first as a draughtsman and later as a collaborating architect, mainly focusing on design visualisation and on publications. He also assisted Jaap Bakema with his international contacts and his teaching work, including four years as a teaching assistant at the International Summer Academy for Visual Art in Salzburg. From 1975, he also worked as a teacher and coordinator at what is now the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, where he introduced the use of self-adhesive plastic films into interior design.
Mette Peters is a film historian specialising in the history of animated films and the conservation of animation heritage. She researches the creative practices of animated filmmakers in the Netherlands during the interwar period at the University of Utrecht, and is a lecturer on animation at Utrecht School of the Arts. Peters regularly publishes on Dutch animated film and on the filmmakers Jacques Verbeek and Karin Wiertz.
Jeroen de Vries
Jeroen de Vries is an industrial designer, curator and (former) activist. As a designer and insider, he played an important role in the anti-Vietnam War movement, student protests and the peace movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Today, many of the projects in which he is involved are about the history of war and genocide, as well as current issues such as the climate crisis and migration.
Ellen Smit is an architecture historian. She has been a curator at Het Nieuwe Instituut since 2001. In 2016, she researched the role and significance of structuralist architectural drawings in the design process with a grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). She is the project leader of the research project Invented from Copies, which explores the cultural value of the copy in the design process and design culture.
Paper conservator Aafke Weller and graphic designer Ad van der Kouwe advised on the content for the evening. Weller works at the Hoogduin restoration workshop (Delft) and is involved in the Disclosing Architecture programme in that capacity. Since 2017, together with Mette Peters, she has been leading the Materials in Motion conservation project, which focuses on researching and preserving a large number of animated films in the Eye collection. Ad van der Kouwe is a graphic designer and co-founder of the design bureau Manifesta – Idee & Ontwerp.