Color in times of reconstruction - Louis van RoodeColumn for Z-files #13 and Vers Beton, 28.10.2015
If you walk in the dark from Rotterdam Central to Delftseplein, you will be drawn to it. Glowing light points, spread over the side wall of the former station post building. The windows of the tall building light up in countless colors. The frames seem to have been randomly placed on the facade: the bulging, concrete squares hang on the building. Once evening falls, the stained-glass windows are just about the only colors at this location in the station area. And yet: those who do not pay attention, do not take the trouble to look up, they walk past. Once you have seen the illuminated windows, you will never forget them.
Louis van Roode (1914-1964) studied at the Academy of Visual Arts in Rotterdam. In the '50 years he belonged to the Venstergroep, together with other Rotterdam graphic artists. Such as Gust Romijn, whose 'De Dobber' came to this place two months ago discussed. Like many visual artists, Louis Van Roode was involved in the reconstruction. During that time he worked a lot with the two brothers, architects Evert and Herman Kraaijvanger. They integrated art and architecture, such as the mosaic at the Holbein House from 1954 and this abstract work on the side wall of the Station Post building in 1959.
The 22 protruding stained-glass windows of the building, which all have their own abstract shape and representation, are placed in the middle of an enormous pattern: two abstract, broad strips in green and pink decorative concrete over which a brown line decoration runs. Van Roode did not shy away from large formats: the wall is 52 meters high and 7 meters wide. The gigantic pattern is placed on the outside wall of the stairwell of the building. The former Station Post building has now become the Central Post business premises, which includes ProRail and the editors of Algemeen Dagblad.
Van Roode started his career with wall paintings, such as for a cigarette factory in Dordrecht, the Schielandshuis and the Zuiderziekenhuis in Rotterdam. Mosaics followed after the murals. These were first composed of pieces of glass or stones that he bought ready-made, but later he started to work pieces of glass with a homemade mosaic chisel. This is clearly visible in the stained-glass windows: the pieces of glass from which they are assembled are not polished and unruly. No piece is the same, making it look like you're looking at a collection of rough gems. If light shines through the windows, these pieces of glass also release an incredible shade of color.
Color in a battered city
Passers-by that I meet first look up. Frequently asked question: "Is this a work of art?" Klaas (76) does know about the hat and the brim: “This façade is indispensable from Rotterdam. It was made after the war, when everything was rebuilt. That's why it's so important. Everything from that time is important! ”
René (39) did not know that the artwork comes from the reconstruction: “I know well, I often walk here in the evening when I leave work. The glass windows give light. I like them, it is rather desolate here. "Kara (31) agrees:" In the dark, those windows suddenly become attractive. You hardly see them during the day, but in the evening they come to life. "She adds with a smile:" You want to know from a distance what is behind those windows. "
We do not know exactly what is hidden behind the windows. But when you consider that there is a stairwell behind it, this will be of little interest. We do know the story behind the artwork. That story plays in a time of reconstruction, in which every Rotterdammer went to great lengths to get the city back to the way it was. A time full of contractors, workmen, carpenters and construction workers. And artists who brought color back to a battered city. Like Louis van Roode, who brought life to his typical polished pieces of glass from a reconstruction building. To quote Klaas again: that's why it's so important.
Sara Wiersma (1984) is an art historian and columnist for Vers Beton, among others.