. ll


Numbers and stones

HANS VAN DER LAAN was an architect, a philosopher and mathematician who had a penchant for collecting pebbles. Not forgetting the fact he was a monk. Words: Susanna Beaumont

Dom Hans Van Der Laan had a thing about numbers. And stones for that matter. As a child, he would watch workmen sieving gravel, endlessly intrigued about the stones that were exactly the same size as the mesh holes in the sieve. In later years, he spent many an hour thinking numerals and actually developed a measuring system which he named the Plastic Number.

By the by, Dom llans Van Der Laan was a monk. Not that that is hugely

'I am bringing this Scottish tartan to your attention so that

Thinking numbers: Dom Hans Van Der Laan comtemplates

was not just a number cruncher. Since he was a kid. he was always gathering pebbles and grouping them. He was esoteric.’

One side of his off-the-wallish character is well- illustrated in a lecture he delivered in 1908. entitled 011A Scottish Tartan. In it, Van Der Laan analysed the Douglas tartan, declaring: ‘I am bringing this Scottish tartan to your attention so that you may create good buildings.’ He then went on to discuss at length and somewhat densely - the threads and the proportion of grey to black bands of colour to present

various mathematical readings. All in all, it smacks of

eccentricity coupled, undoubtedly, with some interesting insights.

‘lt is part infuriating, part blissful,’ says Bradley. ‘His comment that Greek women look at beautiful statues during their pregnancy in order to have well- formed children into the world is an infuriating

preview ART


News and views from the world


1 HERE'S A THOUGHT for the new

century. Instead of the ubiquitous

wine bar and a glass of indifferent

Chardonnay, how about a thought

bar? Rather than cruising up in search

of liquid refreshment, you settle down 2

to some serious thinking. Sounding

wonderfully 215t century new age, it is what will be happening at Edinburgh’s Collective Gallery. Currently closed for a Lottery-funded refurbishment, the new look Collective will boast a lounge with a host of comfy seats for the art lover-

cum-couch potato perhaps and the aforementioned ‘Thought Bar' where,

on the appropriately stylish bar stools, you will be able ponder such eternal

questions as 'what is art?’ The

Collective is due to re-open in April

. for the British Art Show, so hold your thoughts and, in the meantime, pass the Sauvignon Blanc.

MEANWHILE IN GLASGOW the question of happiness is being

broached. The artist Sarah Tripp,

' whose show Anti-Prophet is currently running at the CCA, is to introduce a

screening of Chronic/e OfA Summer by the French filmmaker Jean Rouch. In the film, a market researcher asks

_ Parisians if they are happy. Our Gallic

neighbours deliver, as would be expected, a suitably philosophical take on it all. The film is screened at the CCA on Friday 21 January at 8pm. BUT IF YOU are still trying to archive

the 905 and feel you have to forget Lara Croft before you can get to grips - with 005, then perhaps a lecture at

aspect.’ That said, Bradley believes that Van Der

Laan should be taken seriously. He designed four buildings during his life, commenting that ‘architecture is nothing else but that which must be added to natural space to make it habitable, that is, delimited in relation to our bodies, visible to our senses and measurable for our intellect.’

Significant, {001$ l’illll , , ' The resulting buildings Bradley, CUT'leT Of an bUIldlngS. wch clean-cut spaces exhibition of Van Der Dom HansVan Der Laan constructed through the

Laan’s work at Edinburgh's

lnverleith House. ‘I hold

back on the fact he was a monk,’ says Bradley. ‘People could go to the exhibition with a set perspective, either a religious one or, alternatively, it could alienate non-religious people.’

Put simply Van Der Laan was an intellectual eccentric. Born in Belgium in 1904, he initially trained as an architect before heading for the cloistered world. Yet it was not an entirely closed-off world. He more than dabbled in philosophy, architecture and mathematics, but defied easy definition. Bradley, who has co-curated the exhibition with the Dutch curator Wolfgang Schoeddert, feels that Van Der Laan (who died in 1991) was a heavyweight with playful tendencies. ‘He was always looking at nature, and his intellect came from that. He

arrangement of cubes and rectangles of concrete or stone.

Glasgow's Lighthouse could do the trick. On Monday 24 January at 6pm, David Redhead curator of their current show, Identity Crisis: The 905

Defined - and its designer, Thomas Heatherwick, will discuss design and

what it says about us. Beware,

wearers of Calvin Klein. COINCIDING WITH THE exhibition of

Bruce McLean's work at Edinburgh's Talbot Rice Gallery is a symposium to

be held on Wednesday 9 February.

McLean, along with Rhona Brankin

. MSP and Deputy Minister for Culture

James Leckie of North Ayrshire Council

Van Der Laan believed Stonehenge to be the most

important structure in the world -— ‘the very birth of architecture’ and it influenced his work greatly. lmportantly, believes Bradley, Van Der Laan’s work itself is becoming increasingly influential.

‘As he taught throughout his life and gave lectures, his ideas got out. His influence is strong in

minimal architecture and particularly the work of

Herzog de Meuron [architects of London’s Tate Bankside] and John l’awson, the designer behind the Calvin Klein shop interiors.’ Dom Van Der Laan was clearly much more than just a monk.

Dom Van Der Laan is at lnverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Sat 29 Jan-Sun 19 Mar.

and Sport, the critic Mel Gooding,

and others will discuss McLean's work in collaboration with North Ayrshire Council to design a primary school.

One for the 905: Lara Croft the has been?

screws; r 5’ 1 i , 2‘ arr f} '1 15,77; x5 (13 ‘5. 4’3; a? »

20 Jan-3 Feb 2000 THE UST 67