Design Across Time in Utrecht’s Stadhuis

Stadhuis InteriorWhile I was in the Stadhuis last week to see the Donker Utrecht exhibit, I ended up exploring a bit more of the building than I’d seen in the past. Along one of the back hallways I saw some interior windows open and looked down to see a great view of this central meeting room. Although the current Stadhuis is different from the one that stood on the site during the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, it’s still the same location. In fact, the painting on the right may well be a depiction of the Treaty of Utrecht parties, similar to The Agreement photo I posted about last time. (I forgot to take a look when I went back downstairs, so I can’t say for sure.)Stadhuis InteriorAnyway, the room, including it’s ceiling, had some nice architectural elements that caught my eye. Equally eye-catching were a series of Art Deco stained glass windows (glas in lood) donated in the 1930s by various groups and individuals, including a former mayor. I particularly liked the look of his, with it’s Metropolis-style design, including the Domtoren and the red-and-white city shield. (The pictures of each window are in two pieces as the hallway was too narrow to get the whole window in one shot.)
Stadhuis InteriorStadhuis Interior
The student-donated window seems to favor some of the Mondriaan/De Stijl elements of design.
Stadhuis InteriorStadhuis Interior

The Agreement’s In The Bag

The AgreementLast year, as part of the Treaty of Utrecht anniversary celebrations, a massive photo canvas was hung from the front of the Stadhuis, signifying the various parties involved in the historic agreement.

The image was a composite of photos taken by artist Red Saunders, melded beautifully into a fascinating tableau. After the celebrations, there had been the hope that a place would be found where the image could hang on permanent display. Unfortunately, the sheer size meant that it just wasn’t feasible. It could have been folded up and left somewhere to gather dust, but an alternative solution was agreed upon.

The variety of cultural festivals and events that take place here in Utrecht produce a number of sturdy banners that would become garbage if someone didn’t find an alternative use. As part of the duurzaamheid (sustainability) that is of growing interest, many of the old banners have been transformed into sturdy, unusual, and stylish bags. The people who have been doing this are going to do the same with The Agreement. Rather than have the large image languish in oblivion, it will be turned into a bag that can also be used as a picnic blanket, perfect for the Bevrijdingsfestival. Anyone interested can order one for just €20, and have their own personal and functional keepsake.

Now if only I could get a bag made out of the section with the dogs …The Agreement

Visualizing the Treaty of Utrecht

I’ve got a few more days left in the US, and you’ll probably end up seeing a few more posts about the US when I get back, but for now, time to squeeze in one last post about the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht (Vrede van Utrecht). Unfortunately, I missed the final celebrations, but I got to enjoy plenty of the events that have taken place throughout the year. This video is a nice look back at some of the many events and exhibits, including some of the ones I didn’t make it to over the past few months. Enjoy!

Peace of Cake

Peace of Cake
As I’ve mentioned in the past, the celebrations surrounding the 300th anniversary of the Vrede van Utrecht (Peace/Treaty of Utrecht) are continuing through September, with a variety of exhibits and events to be found throughout the city. One of the more amusingly titled exhibits is Peace of Cake, an exhibit at Utrecht University.

As the university’s website explains:

Take a look behind the scenes of the science behind peace. Together with scientists from the University of Utrecht, the exhibition focuses on three (former) war zones: Uganda, South Africa and Yugoslavia. In short documentaries scientists look for insight into their search for peace.

To be honest, I haven’t been to the exhibit, nor do I have plans to go, but I’ve enjoyed the window display. I also enjoy cake. I have a recipe for a low-calorie chocolate cake that I make regularly so I can have something a little sweet after dinner without going overboard. I thought I’d share the recipe and hope that this doesn’t all come across as a little too “let them eat cake!”

Peace of Chocolate Cake
3/4 cup of flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 1/1 teaspoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F/200C

Combine the dry ingredients and stir together until all are blended evenly. Then add in liquid ingredients and stir to combine. There may be some lumps, but there should be no obviously dry clumps.

Pour the mixture into a greased glass pie plate (approximately 8 inches) or divide evenly into a 12-hole muffin tin. Bake for approximately 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

I like to play around with the basic recipe, sometimes adding in chocolate chips or a dash or nutmeg/cinnamon, and nowadays I tend to sprinkle powdered sugar over the top before baking to give it a slightly sweet, delicate texture on the top. I eat it plain, but you can also top it with a glaze, frosting, or any other topping you like.

Before any extras and assuming 12 servings, it breaks down to 59 calories per serving. Even 1.5 servings, which is how I tend to break it down, is only 89 calories. It’s not the world’s best chocolate cake, but it certainly helps keep cravings at bay and satisfies my chocolate urges.

The Domtoren Lights Up the Night

One of the things I love about living in Northern Europe is the long hours of daylight in the summer. By April and May, it starts to stay light until 9 or 10 at night. By the middle of summer, there’s still a fair amount of light even at 11 p.m.

However, if you want to see the Trajectum Lumen light displays during the summer, you’re going to have to wait a while. They traditionally begin at dusk and end at midnight, but when dusk doesn’t begin until around 10 p.m. for much of the summer, you’ve got a small window of time to see some of the lights. Some come on a bit earlier, but others really aren’t properly visible until it’s dark.

The last of the Trajectum Lumen installations was the Domtoren. The lights were unveiled on April 11, as part of the beginning of the Treaty of Utrecht celebrations. I was there that evening, although the light display didn’t begin until 10 p.m. in order for it to be dark enough to show off the lights properly. It continued to get darker later and later, which means that the only time I’ve seen the full Domtoren light display was that first night. I’ve either not had a view of the Domtoren when out late enough, or it wasn’t dark enough when I was nearby.

I do hope to head over to the Domplein on Monday evening to listen to the last of the Domtoren summer concerts — this time it will be Pink Floyd’s The Wall — but it still probably won’t be dark enough at the end of the concert. It’s starting to get a bit darker by 9:30 now, so I may finally get to see the display in person again soon. Fortunately, I came across a couple of videos today that serve as a nice reminder of what the light display looks like. If you’re not much of a night owl or don’t live close enough to see it in person, I hope you enjoy these videos for a taste of what will be visible a bit earlier in the coming weeks.

In Lumine Tuo… from Speirs + Major on Vimeo.

In lumine tuo… (Part 2) from Speirs + Major on Vimeo.

Utrecht Te Deum

Vrede van Utrecht/Treaty of Utrecht
Perhaps not surprisingly, Utrecht isn’t the only city to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Vrede van Utrecht (Treaty of Utrecht) this year. Although our celebrations are the most extensive and ongoing, other cities and countries have also commemorated the historic peace agreement. The method most other cities have chosen has been a concert performance of George Frideric Handel’s Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate.

Although born and raised in Germany, Handel had settled permanently in England by 1712. He composed his Baroque choral piece for Britain’s Queen Anne in 1713, to celebrate the end of the War of Spanish Succession. The musical piece was first performed publicly at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on 13 July 1713, just a few short months after the signing of the treaty.

Now, 300 years later, this important choral piece has once again been performed in St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was part of the City of London Festival and was conducted by Jos Vermont and performed by The Toonkunstkoor Utrecht and English Chamber Choir.

In addition, the Accademia Bizantina, based in Ravenna, Italy, has been travelling in Europe, performing the Utrecht Te Deum in various cities this year. They will be performing once more in France on 28 August.

You can see a copy of the Utrecht Te Deum at the Centraal Museum, which has an extensive Vrede van Utrecht exhibit exploring both the conflict and the ground-breaking resolution. I’ll have more about the exhibit later this week.

For now, here is a sampling of Handel’s Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate:

Public Art and the Peace of Utrecht

The Agreement
Continuing the theme of giant public works of art, which I started with my post about the giant teapot, I figured I should finally post about The Agreement. This 200-square-meter tableau hangs on the facade of the Stadhuis, the site where the Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713. It commemorates the event that brought an end to the War of Spanish Succession 300 years ago.

As part of the city-wide celebration taking place this year, this photographic mural was commissioned from an English photographer, Red Saunders. The final image is a combination of a series of photographs that have been morphed into one. Many of the people in the picture are volunteers. There was a request late last year for people who were interested in taking part. I briefly considered volunteering, but my lack of photogenic qualities deterred me.

The Agreement

The negotiations for the treaty (actually a series of treaties) took 18 months and involved multiple countries and various groups, including diplomats, negotiators, aristocrats, Calvinist bureaucrats, militaries, and civil servants. Not surprisingly, all of these various retinues were an economic boon for Utrecht, from bakers to prostitutes.

All of these groups and more are depicted in The Agreement, as well as a few visual nods to the Dutch Golden Age of art, trade, and commerce. There are ships, still life groupings, saints, and doves of peace to be found throughout the image.

The Agreement

The Agreement is a great blend of history and humor. As well as the bawdy figures on the left, there is a curious masked figure on the bottom right. It seems that he’s a depiction of the inevitable spies who were involved in the drawn-out peace process. For a more extensive explanation of the various groupings and symbols, there’s a tagged description written by the photographer, which can be found here (in English). The following are a few photos that show a bit more detail.

The Agreement

The Agreement

The Agreement

Finally, I recommend watching this relatively short video about the making of the picture. I had seen some of the video before the picture was revealed, and I found it fascinating to see how all the separate groupings were able to come together into one striking image.

The Agreement will hang on the Stadhuis through 21 September 2013.

Making Peace Photo Exhibition

Making Peace Photo Exhibit
Although the 300th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht was in April, the celebrations continue. Recently, an outdoor photo exhibition was installed along the pathways of the Maliebaan. Titled “Making Peace”, it is an exhibit that shows the horrors of war, but gives hope through also focusing on the people and organizations that work to end war and promote peace.

The international exhibition was first put on display along the shores of Lake Geneva in 2010, organized by the International Peace Bureau to celebrate their 100th anniversary of winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The exhibit includes photos from around the world, from some of the great photojournalists. A comment/explanation for each photo is provided in English and Dutch. Many of the photos are moving and thought-provoking. Some break your heart, while others provide a glimmer of hope.

Making Peace Photo Exhibit

The Maliebaan is an historic avenue in Utrecht and now one of the most expensive streets in the city. Located just outside the old city center, it was opened in 1637 and features multiple lanes, separated by tunnels of trees. Some lanes are for vehicles, others for bicycles and pedestrians. In fact, the very first bicycle path built in the Netherlands was along the Maliebaan. The street has seen its own share of war and peace over the centuries, particularly during World War II, when the occupying Nazis had offices in the street. But it seems there were also resistance groups along the street, as well.

Making Peace Photo Exhibit

These pathways are a perfect setting for the photo exhibition. The street is relatively peaceful and allows time for contemplation of the numerous photos. The exhibit runs until 28 July and is definitely worth a visit.

Making Peace Photo Exhibit

Feeling Free

It’s been a week of important dates here in the Netherlands. First the last Queen’s Day, and now this weekend — May 4-5 — we’ve had Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenkingdag) and Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag). Remembrance Day (May 4) started as a day of remembrance for those killed during World War II, although now it’s generally a time to remember all who have died in conflict. It is marked each year by special ceremonies and two minutes of silence at 8 p.m.

Remembrance Day is obviously a more somber day, whereas today, Liberation Day (May 5) commemorates the liberation of the Netherlands from the Nazis at the end of World War II. There are large festivals held in cities across the country and Utrecht is hosting a large one this year, in part due to the Vrede van Utrecht (Treaty of Utrect) ongoing celebrations.

Typically, the Dutch flag is only flown on a handful of official days/holidays. As a result, it’s much more noticeable when it is out, as it was this weekend. It seems that technically, it’s not meant to be flown on a Sunday. However, a number of people didn’t follow that particular rule today. Here’s a bit of info on when the flag should be flown:

The Dutch flag instruction also stipulates on which days the flag should be flown. Of course this includes a selection of popular festivities such as Queen’s Day (soon to be King’s Day) and formal occasions such as Liberation Day, royal birthdays, Remembrance Day, Veterans Day, Victory in Europe Day and Koninkrijksdag (Kingdom Day). On these days, the flag may be hoisted from sunrise and must be taken down before sunset. However, as the Dutch flag should never be flown on Sunday, if a celebration happens to fall on that day, the flag is raised the following Monday instead.

Considering the flags were flown on the Domtoren and the Domplein today — even while Prime Minister Rutte was visiting — I’m not sure how hard-and-fast some of those rules are. Anyway, I took a number of photos of the flags flying at various spots around town today. It’s a warm, beautiful day and a great day to celebrate freedom.