Untitled (1951) Joan Bakker

Otto Snoek
About the artwork

During the bombing of 1940, the old telephone building was partially spared, as was the nearby library and part of the savings bank. Already during the war a part was restored for the important telephone traffic. The new telephone building on Botersloot will be officially opened on 4 December 1951. The building was designed by architect ir. J. Koops, who works for the Public Works Department. Due to material scarcity, the construction had taken longer than planned. Thanks to the visual art applications of sculptor Joan Bakker, the building was seen as a PTT building (PTT was the predecessor of KPN). The wide entrance above the main entrance contains the letters PTT and a symbolic representation of the role that the PTT played in the world. The left side depicts the harbor and the water. On the right we see the land, the harvest and two horse heads. Under the letters PTT we see a telephone receiver and an electricity pole. The lights from the mast not only represent electricity, but also the energy of that time, the Reconstruction and the way in which Rotterdam rose. Bakker had a tough job, because Swedish granite was a difficult material. He worked on the building for three months in a cage. It is the hardest type of stone and therefore the relief has not become very powerful, but if the light strikes it, it is very beautiful and the forms speak for themselves (according to a report in the Rotterdams Nieuwsblad in 1950). This also applies to a number of facing bricks that Bakker made for the same building. One stone shows two lashing figures. This represents the cable laying, the installation of the telephone network after the war, which is an important symbol for progress. The relief has a beautiful lines, which is hard and graceful at the same time. It used to be an ornamental border, but after a renovation it was placed at street level in the courtyard. Another facing brick is still at 24 meters above the entrance. This probably depicts Mercury, the god of commerce, riding a dolphin, the symbol of the ocean.

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About the artist

Joannes (Joan) Petrus Anthonius Maria Bakker (Oosterblokker, 1919 - 1999) visited the Academy of Visual Arts in Rotterdam, after which he settled permanently in Rotterdam. Among other things, he was a student of Herman Mees (1880 - 1964) and the husband of sculptor and ceramicist Riet (Maria) Elias. He made it together with Jan Poot (architect at the Municipality of Rotterdam) Liberation Monument at the Brink in Vreewijk, Feijenoord. On an office building on Botersloot, he designed ornaments with great visual power and clear stonemason qualities. He was able to handle the hardest types of stone, in which he applied reliefs with attention to the role of light on the various types of stone. There are several works by Joan Bakker in Rotterdam.

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