The central library in Utrecht gets a new large-scale installation at its entrance. The Public Library commissioned renowned Dutch artist Maarten Baas to highlight the entrance at Neude Square, Utrecht.
A 100-year-old post office building was transformed into a public library that provides inspiring spaces to read books, study, listen to must, or just relax and enjoy your coffee. Its design was to create a connection between the city by revealing and opening up the existing buildings and surroundings. The design of the post office building was inspired by the Amsterdam School and is characterized by rich ornamentation that includes elements of Art Deco. The most famous feature of this building is its public reception hall, which has a sizeable parabolic roof, glazed yellow stones, and substantial ornamentation. This grand hall, which was perpetually open to the public, served as the hub of the previous post office. However, there remained an additional 8,000 sq.m. of floor space that has now been made available for the first time to fit the library’s programming and strengthen the building’s connection to the city.
The art piece designed by Maarten Baas was titled ‘Intellectual Heritage’ and was wrapped around the library’s arched main entrance. Intellectual Heritage spans 31 feet by 26 feet (9.5 by 8 meters) above the door as a surrounding for the upper semicircular window. An unexpected and unique junction of large-scale LED text displays and dramatic architectural 3D signage replicates commercial messaging and is illuminated continuously throughout the day at various intensities. A shared frame of reference among the educated is created by the installation’s presentation of words from literature, culture, and philosophy using a visual language that conveys ideas and is mainly regarded as pop culture- a sort of advertising.
Baas, who is known for intriguing and surprising the public asks, “Is the installation pointing to the entrance of a casino in Las Vegas or to the portal of a cultural temple? All my work is open to numerous interpretations, and the interpretations can be contradictory”.
Baas played the conundrum of selecting references from high culture vs those from pop culture masterfully, creating a blend of the two. The artwork uses Latin phrases as slogans, such as Lectori Salutem (Greetings Reader) and Scientia potentia est (Knowledge is Power), together with the names of well-known writers, including Virginia Woolf and Kafka—one of Baas’ favorite authors. Given the intricate bureaucratic procedure that made the task feasible, he could not help but quote him.
Baas promotes phrases like “Study Study Study or Silence”– the two main pursuits for students- considering that Utrecht is a student city. However, the expressive lettering encourages activity and chatter rather than focus and calm. The words on the three programmable LED panels occasionally change to show the same fusion of high and low culture. The first LED display features well-known poetry from Utrecht, the second shows a digital list of notable writers and Nobel Prize winners, and the third shows well-known tunes and city slogans.
Public libraries are regarded as dependable places that are accessible to all, but they also confront numerous obstacles to resilience and sustainability, including the way that technological advancements impact how people desire to access information and culture. People will continue to anticipate ever more engaging experiences that extend outside of the actual building as digital technology continues to have a significant impact on how we receive and consume information. The project, which aims to revitalize the cityscape and instill a sense of positivity and pride in the local community, is an expression of love and respect for the cultural function of a public library and the city of Utrecht.
“Intellectual Heritage” looks into brand-new communication paradigms, enticing a positive and welcoming way of engagement, and guiding people towards culture.
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