“Space, form and measurement should form one big harmony.”
Dom Hans van der Laan
From an early age, young Dutchman Hans van der Laan’s life was guided by
one main question: ‘How can I know things as they are?’. After dropping out of his studies in architecture at TU Delft, he joined a Benedictine monastery at the age of 23. Naturally, this gave Van der Laan plenty of time for contemplation, but also time to practically test the architectural theory he developed in his life’s work – four convents and a house. His proportional system, a basis of order and symmetry from which he envisioned an architect could design regardless of any zeitgeist, still resonates with architects around the world.
The St. Benedictusberg Abbey near the Dutch town of Vaals, where Van der Laan resided until his death in 1991, is possibly the architect-monk’s most prominent work. Often described as a piece of sensory architecture, he believed in creating an atmosphere in which experience is central. As a ‘modern primitive’, which author Richard Padovan also named the biography on the late architect, Van der Laan often chose to work with brick, timber and other readily available Dutch building materials.
Van der Laan’s quest for an aesthetic language goes beyond an era or style, and the idea of using proportion to create timeless work is one that resonates with us and that we strive for in our own pieces. Choosing rough materials with an absence of decoration, and relying on proportion and light to work wonders, is something we hope Van der Laan would have approved of.
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