Open Air Museum De Lakenhal: Maison d’Artiste

Founder of De Stijl Theo van Doesburg and architect Cor van Eesteren have designed the Maison d’Artiste in 1923. A challenging design that has never been executed. Open Air Museum De Lakenhal presents a prototype, developed by Professor Mick Eekhout in collaboration with students of the Delft Technical University. This prototype (scale 1:5) is shown within a museum context for the first time ever, on Het Gerecht square in Leiden.

The Maison d’Artiste was designed in 1923 by artist Theo van Doesburg and architect Cor van Eesteren. The design for an artist’s residence was presented during Les Architectes du Groupe ‘De Stijl’, an exhibition of architectural design from the Dutch avant-garde movement De Stijl. This group exhibition was held from the 15th of October till the 15th of November in Galerie l‘Effort Moderne in Paris. A prototype of the Maison d’Artiste (scale 1:5) is on display on Het Gerecht square, near the Leiden Pieterskerk, during the exhibition Open Air Museum De Lakenhal: 100 years after De Stijl, and can be viewed until the 27th of August this year. The reconstruction of the artist’s house was created by students of Architecture at the Delft Technical University, under supervision of Professor Mick Eekhout.

Function and shape

The Maison d’Artiste shows how the arts of painting and construction merge harmonically in an ideal artist’s residence. There were experiments with new ideas about space that fitted the ‘zeitgeist’, in which the shape naturally flows from the function. Apart from this, there were experiments with new materials, such as reinforced concrete. The Maison d’Artiste doesn’t have a front, back or side; the desired geometrical shapes were formed by applying cantilever walls and floors with flat roofs.

Floating Architecture

Van Doesburg and Van Eesteren have developed a new style of constructing, airborne as it were, as if there was no gravity. The designers were criticized in the press, because they didn’t take the practical implementation into consideration in their floating architecture, and because they left this unsolvable problem to the engineers. However, the groundbreaking design, which was way ahead on the developments in technology, would be of great influence on Modern Architecture.

The original scale model of the Maison d'Artiste
The original scale model of the Maison d'Artiste Photo: Het Nieuwe Instituut Collection - gift Van Moorsel

Colour Composition

To Theo van Doesburg, colour was the most important means to expression: “In the end, the surface is the only defining factor in architecture. The human being doesn’t live in the construction, but in the atmosphere that is evoked by the surfaces!”. The designers have worked on Maison d’Artiste with the primary colours red, yellow and blue and the ‘non-colours’ black, white and grey. For it was unclear what the original colour scheme was at the time, the scale model on Het Gerecht square shows an interpretation of the colour composition. Have you got a better suggestion? Please share this via Instagram.

Scientific Reconstruction of the Maison d’Artiste

The design of the Maison d’Artiste was so modern, that it wasn’t possible to execute it in 1923 due to technical reasons. Morevover, the original scale model was rapidly torn due to water damage. What remained was a number of black & white pictures and sketches with information on dimensioning, choice of materials and colour composition. Over the past years, architects have investigated whether the Maison d’Artiste could still be created as a life-size model (approx. 20x20x20 metres). These investigations consist of feasibility studies on construction, building and detailing. This scale model at one fifth of the intended size is the result of a scientific construction of the Maison d’Artiste.

Practical Information

  • 2nd June-27th August 2017
  • Location: Pieterskerkhof Leiden
  • Opening Hours: 24/7
  • Entry: Free

Free Tours and Lectures

During Open Air Museum De Lakenhal (2nd June till 27th August 2017) at the Pieterskerkhof in Leiden, free hop-on/hop-off tours are provided every Sunday at 2pm. The tour takes about an hour. There’s no need to sign up. Meeting place is the Old School, 4A Pieterskerkhof. The main language will be Dutch.

Booking a tour with a private group is of course part of the options as well (which can be given in both Dutch and English). For more information and bookings, please contact boekingen@lakenhal.nl or dial (0031-)(0)71-5165357.

Activities in relation to De Lakenhal Open Air Museum

View the entire activity program regarding the De Lakenhal Open Air Museum exhibition.

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Maison d'Artiste at het Gerecht in Leiden
Maison d'Artiste at het Gerecht in Leiden Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij