Exposition Pierre CuypersStedelijk Museum Roermond 2009
By designing a permanent exposition on Pierre Cuypers in the Stedelijk Museum Roermond, Maurice Mentjens convincingly brings this influential architect back into focus.
Pierre Cuypers, born and bred in Roermond, is regarded as Holland’s most famous and influential 19th century’s architect. Being a devout catholic, he embraced the architectural principles of the Gothic, considering this medieval building style ‘true and sincere’ because of the fact that the construction makes itself clearly visible through the different components of the building. Cuypers became friendly with Viollet-le-Duc and Pugin, both founders of the Neo-Gothic, and shared with them a rational approach towards the construction of buildings. Whilst travelling, Cuypers studied the architectural principles of Gothic buildings and, back home, did put this knowledge into practice in his own work. This turned Cuypers into one of the precursors of modern architecture, being strongly convinced that form simply had to follow function. Cuypers is known by most people as the architect of the Centraal Station and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Ridderzaal in The Hague. He has also built at least seventy churches in The Netherlands and abroad.
The Stedelijk Museum Roermond is housed in a splendid building (1853) that Cuypers originally designed for himself, a duplex house flanked by workshops. He needed that space to house his thriving company - by 1860 he already employed seventy people. In 1931 the building was extended and a year later inaugurated by princess Juliana as Roermond’s municipal museum, focussing on the art, culture and history of Roermond and its surroundings, and above all, focussing on Cuypers.
The Stedelijk Museum Roermond has commissioned designer Maurice Mentjens to design a new, permanent exhibition on Cuypers, in four of its rooms on the first floor of the building, aiming to bring Roermond’s most famous descendant back into the focus of the 21st century. As an added bonus, Mentjens had an abundance of historic artefacts at his disposal.
Mentjens has ranked Cuypers’ life and work in four topics, each with its own room and colour - Passion (red), Theory (yellow), Spiritualism (blue) and Business (grey). Each room represents one aspect of Cuypers’ life and work. The layout of the exhibition is modern and clear, with themes and colours consistently elaborated. The rooms are monochrome, with walls, ceiling and sunscreens all in the same colour. The walls function as data carriers, the themes almost literally surround the visitor.
The themes Passion and Business are implemented completely, both Spiritualism and Theory are only on show as concepts.
Passion - red
Red represents the passion of Cuypers, a devoted man of many talents. In this room Cuypers’ ample works are depicted both chronologically and topographically. A listing of his works in text and pictures is covering the walls. On a substantial topographical map of The Netherlands dozens of pinpoints, each with a different image, aptly mark the many projects Cuypers realised throughout the country.
Theory - yellow
This room shows the views that have influenced Cuypers. Cuypers studied the constructions of gothic buildings and put the knowledge he gathered into practice. He did not hesitate to make use of modern building materials - he was the first in The Netherlands to use steel constructions. Cuypers was considered a pioneer, specifically in technical terms and in the way he held business. In this yellow room, the sources that inspired him cover the walls as being works of art.
Business - grey
The grey room depicts the businesslike attitude of Cuypers, an all-round and modern entrepreneur. Cuypers not only designed buildings, but also complete interiors - furniture, lamps, sculptures of saints - and sparked a new tradition of craftsmanship. This room provides insight into the running of the workshops and into working on demand. Clients could choose a sculpture from the catalogues and have its size and appearance adapted to their liking. The dozens of niches filled with sculptures and ornaments that cover the walls, symbolize the productivity of the workshops.
Spiritualism - blue
In this intense blue room all is centred on religion, the most profound foundation in the life and works of the devoutly catholic Cuypers; his work includes numerous religious buildings and objects. The room has a sacred, mystical feel. Sculptures of saints, each with a lit halo, hang in front of two opposite placed mirrored walls. Through the mirrors, the sculptures are reflected to infinity. The visitor, surrounded by the numerous floating saints with their radiating halos, becomes part of this alienating, endless blue space.