Den Haag

What better way to uncork april, than by a visit to Den Haag, the city of peace and justice. Didn’t make that line up:


I was seeing Emma, also from TaiK back home in Finland, who is doing her exchange at KABK. Of course, apart from the peace and justice, Den Haag is well known as a nexus of the typography world.


…kerk? verk?



I had the good fortune of catching a class by eminent lettering teacher Frank Blokland, talking about pointed pen lettering (and drawing with some skill on the blackboard). After the lecture he also brought up the interesting suggestion, that the percieved difference in readability between sans and serif typefaces, could relate to the fact that serif faces have an evenly spaced rythm of stems, whereas in a sans the inner distances in the letters and the distance between letters vary.

The teaching of lettering and typography generally does seem to be on a high level at KABK, and ambitions are equally lofty. Emma and her exchangee friends were literally churning out piles of papers covered in lettering exercises.

Out of all this came a slight typo-envy. Hand lettering is a craft pleasantly opposite to that of learning to program and I do feel a certain interest in taking it up at some point to get a hang of type design. I might eventually consider applying to the rather tempting Type and Media program, a two-year postgraduate program focusing on typography and typeface design. It could make for a decent opportunity to utilize my new-found skills in “programming” in the context of typography. Open-type functionality scripted in Python is the shit.



The Legendary Unicode Poster. Do Want!


Modified beer-coasters. Jupiler is a Belgian beer, by the way. Holland isn’t much of a beer-country.

* * *
The city of Den Haag is very different to Antwerpen. It is roughly similar in size, but feels much smaller. It is also more recently built, which makes for more parks, larger open spaces and larger buildings. There is plenty of that post-modern architecture that is familiar from Finland. The difference is that the dutch architects didn’t leave that style to the 90’s, indeed, it is still very much alive and kicking.





Doubled mirroring.



There was an equally bonkers guy opposite to her. The royal couple behind bars, perhaps…


The people in Holland do seem to have a stronger desire to decorate their dwellings with kabouters and similar effigies, than the flemish.


It’s a printer refill store. 5 ml of the red, please.


A strong contender for the prize of “most random A-stand”.


What the candles did during the dinner party at Emmas place.

* * *

Den Haag’s main attraction is, however, the beach. And this is not just any old strip of sand.


When Emma said we were going to the tourist beach, I was thinking maybe a small restaurant and some sunchairs. This turned out to be wrong. I wasn’t by any means expecting the massive Costa Del Sol -like complex that it in fact is, complete with candy-stalls and god-stalls. The control tower in the picture above is … a permanent bungee-jump crane and the rest of the Starship Enterprise is just restaurants and clubs.



I suspect the beach restaurants were using the same interior designers, because they were all more or less identical in arrangement, with Buddhas as a recurring theme: “Southeast Asia Modern”.


On this windy day the sunbathers were absent, but the sea full of kite surfers. One can only imagine the scenery when “Little Germany” is fully invaded by the beach-craving teutonians in the summer.



Walking is obsolete.


* * *

On sunday I visited the Escher museum.


The style was at times slightly gimmicky, as is to be expected (the website informs that you can have children’s birthday parties in the museum!). Overall the exhibition was still well made and interesting, with many excerpts from Escher’s notebooks commenting the prints. I was familiar with all the prints exhibited, but the original prints are larger than most reproductions in books, so you really notice the detailing and the texture.


Escher’s commentary on the print “Flatworms”:

” Bricks are mostly rectangular because that is the most efficient shape for constructing the vertical walls of our dwellings. But anyone who has experience of stacking stones that are not cube-shaped knows there are other possibilities. For example, regular tetrahedrons can be combined with octahedrons. The structures depicted here consist of those two basic shapes. In practice, human beings could not live in it, since it has no vertical walls or horizontal floor. But if it were filled with water, flatworms could happily swim in it”

On the topmost floor was a sort of Escher / optical illusions playland complete with an Ames room to fool around in, Penrose triangle building blocks…



…and “De Escher Virtual Reality Reis”. Which was rubbish.

The most interesting thing here was the display on the Escher and the Droste effect project by Hendrik Lenstra and Bart de Smit, concerning Escher’s image “Print Gallery”. The Droste effect is that of endless recursion in a picture, named after a well-known Dutch cocoa brand whose traditional package features such a design:

What’s changed from Escher’s picture? The original image has an unresolved white hole in the middle, which has been continued as a spiral into endless recursion by some clever matemathical transformations of the underlying grid, which is twisted unto itself after a fashion. The videos the research group made are interesting, and the image has also been made into a rather bendy screensaver.


One Comment

  1. Posted April 24, 2009 at 21:50 | Permalink

    Type&Media is a one year program (although I think 60 study weeks or whatever points the usual masters is), so quite intensive, but good for finding the inner workaholic probably :)

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