Dom Hans van der Laan

29 January - 19 March 2000

"The Space of nature has three aspects which leave us at a loss: it is unlimited, without form and without measure ... Architecture is nothing else but that which must be added to natural space to make it habitable, that is, delimited in relation to our bodies, visible to our senses and measurable for our intellect."

Dom Hans van der Laan, speaking to architecture students, 1985

The architectural practice and legacy left by Dom Hans van der Laan (born Leiden 1904, died Vaals 1991) produced just four buildings. They, however, represent the manifestation of an extremely intense and rarefied architectonic theory. According to Dom Hans van der Laan, the essence of architecture lies in its proportions: everything else is secondary. The theoretical and practical research of Dom Hans van der Laan is based on his discovery in 1928 of the Plastic Number, a system of measurement and proportion he developed, partly as a consequence of finding the Golden Section too limiting.

Although containing distinct elements of architectural study together with a number of thought provoking comparatives with certain strands of conceptual and minimal art practice, this exhibition was fundamentally concerned with a theory, and aesthetic, and the experience of space.

This exhibition consisted of a number of models and demonstration aids designed by Dom Hans van der Laan to demonstrate his theories. Dom Hans van der Laan regularly taught, at Den Bosch (Bossche School), and the exhibition contained facsimiles of his teaching and demonstration aids which through the mediation of trained staff, were available for the public to handle. Such ‘play' was always considered by van der Laan to be important both as a teaching aid and to assist the instinctive understanding of space.
In addition, archive materials were displayed indicating the basis and realisation of Dom Hans van der Laan theory. These materials included versions of the Abacus and Form Bank used in the development of his architectural practice and the demonstration of his theories. In addition, drawings indicated the origins of the Plastic Number and a most extensive survey and measuring of Stonehenge, considered bu Dom Hans van der Laan to the "the very birth of architecture".

To date the work of Dom Hans van der Laan has primarily been exhibited in The Netherlands. The principal exhibition took place at the original Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, in 1982. This exhibition, together with a series of symposia, was researched and developed by Paul Bradley and Wolfgang Schoddert, under the auspices of the Abdij Sint - Benedictusberg, Vaals.

This exhibition was organised by the Henry Moore Foundation External Programmes,in collaboration with the Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht and under the auspices of the Abdij Sint-Benedictusberg, Vaals. This exhibition opened at the Henry Moore institute Leeds on 28 October 1999, following which it travelled to Inverleith House, Edinburgh and The Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht.

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