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Fascinating comparisons! Especially the branding the buroughs one from the 1800’s, did not know it. To add to the hexagonal fever: Henrion also designed a hexagonal routemap for KLM around 1964, might post it some time later.

As for the inspiration for the Rotterdam design. In the sixties Rotterdam had been running a city marketing campaign called ‘Rotterdam–As busy as a bee’, that served as a direct inspiration for these graphics. Benno Wissing (TD) designed a book for this campaign.

From a social point of view the comparison with honey comb structures pointed at a feeling of community. In a famous discussion between Jan van Toorn and Crouwel in 1972, Crouwel was accused of being to authoritarian, imposing forms on society too much. This did not go well in Holland in the 1960’s and 1970’s, were everything that reeked of authority–government as well as industry–was suspect.

He had tried to correct this authoritarian feeling already to some degree with this house style: ‘This house style is not the identification of the city council but stands for the recognition of the community as a whole’. ‘The hexagonal forms, because of their strictly geometric character, give flexibility and playfullness in their application.’ ‘This handbook should be seen as a workbook, a stimulans to work creatively within a Rotterdam-‘framework’. (typical 1970’s social talk out of the depicted manual).

In a more formal way the hexaforms are closely connected with the work of the architects Slothouber and Graatsma, than working at the Dutch State Mines (DSM) exhibition department. They had taken the stance that all design should be based on cubes, often showing isometric projections of cubes. Very interesting guys, their work bordering on art & technic. In 1965 an exhibition was dedicated to their work at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Crouwel was the ‘house designer for the Stedelijk museum’. Later on Crouwel sat on a committee promiting Slothouber & Graatsma’s work for the ‘Center for Cubist Structures’. See here a link for them: http://www.designws.com/pagina/1ccceng.htm

Wrote a book about Dutch visual identities (KLM, PAM, NS, PTT etc) and design agencies (Henrion, TD, Tel Design and AID) in the 1960’s and 1970’s, hence the interest. Unfortunately only in Dutch, might come an English edition later : ).


Wibo, thanks so much for adding some fascinating detail to the genesis of the Rotterdam identity. Please let us know more about Henrion's work for KLM.

I guess you wanted to push the precedent further back, you could look at Marcel Breuer's hexagonal travertine tiles on the facade of De Bijenkorf ("The Beehive") department store, completed in 1957. With it's sealed box exterior, and Naum Gabo sculpture outside, it's a very avant-garde design. More info here

BTW, here is a link to the book that Wibo has written:Droom van helderheid by the great 010 publishers. It's a shame that this is currently only available in Dutch at the moment, because there is a great resurgence of international interest in Dutch modernist graphic design, as the recent Wim Crouwel exhibition at the Design Museum proves.

I keep claiming that Rotterdam is an urban laboratory, and I still can't believe that they are still planning to knock down De Lijnbaan.


Interesting, had not thought of that. Again a link to Total Design. The hexagonal Bijenkorf-logo was designed in 1957 by Müller-Brockmann, one of Crouwels admired designers. The travertine front of the Bijenkorf in Rotterdam blended in perfectly with his design. Shared spirits. In the 1960’s TD worked on company magazines (Ben Bos) and posters (Benno Wissing) for the Bijenkorf too . . . Around the same time the house designer of the Bijenkorf, Benno Premsela, designed the paper wrappings for Bijenkorf packaging using a hexagonal structure, thus introducing it in print.

NB knocking down the Lijnbaan, at the time unique in Europe, is of course a shame. On the other hand, it proved difficult to give it back its former glory. Its dominated by run of the mill shopping chains right now, giving it a cheap and sleazy atmosphere. Also the typical low rise profile, once appealing, seems to get lost and dominated by other property developments in the area, thus fragmenting the two clear axis of the Lijnbaan.


Very interesting. What came to mind first was the Kubuswoningen-- which are obviously square, not hexagonal, but nonetheless make an interlocking geometric tiled pattern in Rotterdam. Almost as if a variant on the general theme of this identity was expressed in a habitable form.

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The deep you dig into the subject and give us the accurate data is appreciable.

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