Untitled (1970) Hans Petri

photo BKOR archive
About the artwork

In 1969, visual artist Hans Petri was commissioned to design a sculpture group for Erasmus University Rotterdam, then known as the Dutch Economic University of Applied Sciences. Petri most likely owed this commission to Cornelis Elffers, one of the architects of the complex. Elffers was a good family friend of Petri's father and built a lot in Rotterdam, especially during the post-war reconstruction period. In those years, it was not uncommon for architects and visual artists to conclude a collaboration involving several assignments in good synergy. In 1970, Petri delivered this self-titled work of art that soon gained a nickname: 'Petri's eggs'. With this design Petri wanted to create an extra place for the well-being of the student on campus. Searching for a way to bring humanity back to the built environment full of large concrete masses with art, the idea for the round shapes arose. The work consisted of ten large boulders, all slightly different in shape, which stood on or next to a plateau that in turn lay in the pond at Burgemeester Oudlaan, the then main entrance. In addition to the strict row of young trees along the straight cycle path, the work of art was strikingly round and organic. The boulders, the islands of landscape architect Boer and the building with the auditorium were later declared a monument together as a whole. The boulders formed a kind of archaic landscape within that whole. For though they were called eggs, they were boulders that inspired Petri. There is a symbolic reason for this: so much was built in a hurry, but nature has its own time - slow and for eternity. For the boulder. As in nature, each boulder differed slightly in size and shape. The color and skin also differed from stone to stone.  Petri wanted to make the work in granite or natural stone, but there was no money for that. He performed the work in an ultramodern material for then: shotcrete. The art budget for the boulders was 80.000 guilders. That money came from the percentage scheme: government funds for art in construction projects. Weather, wind and acid rain affected the work to such an extent that restoration was necessary. In 1988, after many discussions and increasing emotions, the work was given a new coat of white mortar. But in 2003 it was discovered that a much bigger problem lurks in the core of the boulders. The metal in the cores got wet and started to rust, after which the concrete cracked. Moisture from the pond also played a role in this, as did biological growth in the boulders and alpine formation. There was thorough reporting and study, but the work could not last long. The campus would also be overhauled due to planned new construction, whereby the surroundings of the work would disappear. The idea of ​​creating high-quality replicas for a potential new location was rejected by Petri's widow. In the spring of 2011, the university therefore said goodbye to one of its most beloved works of art. The work was destroyed. Against the linearity, environmental design 'the eggs' by Hans Petri, Rotterdam, 2011).

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About the artist

Hans Petri (Weerselo, 1919 - Dordrecht, 1996) graduates from the Rotterdam art academy, after which he works as a graphic artist and sculptor. After the reconstruction he received many commissions for public space, especially in Dordrecht and Rotterdam, but also elsewhere in the country. He mainly worked in stone, later sometimes in concrete. After creating freestanding sculptures and reliefs, he has been active as an environmental designer, with his 'eggs' at Erasmus University being an important example. These and other works have been demolished, several others still remain in the public space. In 2001 he was posthumously given a major retrospective exhibition in the Dordrechts Museum.

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