Maurice Mentjens

Photography: P.Kessels / M. Mentjens

A symbolic ‘Compass’ for an artisanal architect

Since the renovations at the Rijksmuseum were completed the architect/designer, Pierre Cuypers, has once again become a topic of interest in the public imagination. The Cuypershuis in Roermond is a museum dedicated to displaying his life and his works. To enhance the recognizability of the museum, the management went in search of a clear marker. Designer Maurice Mentjens developed a stylized compass as the symbol for the architectural profession.

The object was placed next to the museum in July 2015, within sight of the city centre of Roermond.

Pierre Cuypers (1827-1921), who was originally from the Dutch province of Limburg, is undoubtedly the most prominent Dutch architect of the nineteenth century. In addition to his extensive production of churches, he achieved a great deal of fame with two prestigious projects in Amsterdam, namely the Rijksmuseum (1876-1885), and Amsterdam Centraal railway station (1875-1889). His impressive oeuvre is presented at the Cuypershuis with displays of his design drawings, documents, photographs, plaster casts, furniture, and interior pieces. Yet, the most important item in the collection is the building itself. This was Cuypers’s home and his design studio which he designed himself in 1853.His famous artistic work-shops were also located here and saw a select variety of artisans work on his distinctive and mostly neo-Gothic furniture, statues, decorations, and ornaments. The building has been a museum since 1932. In addition to the Cuypers collection, the museum also exhibits a subcollection of current design and changing exhibitions about architecture, design, and the applied arts.

Symbolic characteristics

Despite the richly decorated façades that grace the building, few passers-by are aware that this very building harbours the heritage of Cuypers. This was the impetus to involve Maurice Mentjens in the creation of a landmark for the museum.

The management of the museum selected the large compass from several preliminary sketches.

This is an iconic object dedicated to a man who pursued the artisanal profession during the modernizing era of the Industrial Revolution.

‘This is indicative of the architect/designer Pierre Cuypers,’ explains Mentjens. ‘His architectural and artistic approach was inspired by elements of the Middle Ages and he introduced neo-Gothic design to the Netherlands. During this age, the compass was symbolic for the artisanal architect and master builder just like the other indispensable measuring instruments of the trade, the square and the ruler.'

The ‘Compass’ statue next to the museum has to become a very obvious and identifiable landmark. It is clearly visible from the Zwartbroekplein square, located in the centre of Roermond.

To enhance its recognizability at a distance, its silhouette was modernized to reflect the stylistic aesthetics of the twenty-first century. The ‘Compass’ was also greatly enlarged to remain visible across the desired line of sight. The final result was a nine-metre-high, powder-coated steel statue that stands at the height of the roof-gutter of the building. Its signal-red colour is contemporary. At night, the statue is brightly lit up by spotlights with red-tinted LED lighting. It is a brand-new beacon in the Dutch cultural landscape.

Maurice Mentjens
Martinusstraat 20

P +31 (0)46 481 14 05
KvK 14044737
Provincie Limburg
design & development: Atelier Fabien

Maurice Mentjens