Arthur Staal – archief Arthur Staal

Collection Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam. Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

Dutch architect Arthur Staal (1907-1993) began his career in the early 1930s and his designs included the A’DAM Tower, which was completed in 1971 as an office tower for Shell. Throughout his career, he expressed clearly his opinion that more attention should be paid to beauty and design in architecture, not only to its functional and socially critical (socialist) task.

The Staal archive is kept in Het Nieuwe Instituut, where the State Archive for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning is located. The archive does not only contain design and work-related material, but also personal items such as photographs he took during his travels, autonomous work (including drawings) and letters.

The photographs shown in this exhibition were made by Arthur Staal in 1936 and 1939 during his travels along the Mediterranean Sea and through the Middle East. Because the political situation in Europe was uncertain at that time, the Supervisory Committee of the Rijksacademie and the Ministry of Education, Arts and Science drew up an extensive itinerary for Staal, so that he had sufficient freedom to travel according to the circumstances. Travelling around on a motorbike, he visited Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Sudan, among other countries, and made hundreds of photographs of places he visited and people he met.

In 2016, new light was shone on Staal’s archive during ‘Through Queer Eyes’, an evening at Het Nieuwe Instituut that looked right through the archive, in order to establish new connections and perspectives in the archive, and to discuss the question: How do you design an architecture that is fluid and offers room for changing identities?