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Monument Full of Stories

Kossmann.dejong design the first ever permanent exhibition of its kind in the Netherlands in St. Laurens church, Rotterdam, drawing on the church’s stories and turbulent history over five centuries.

By Editor Design.nl /asdf 16-09-2010

The Large or Saint Laurens Church in Rotterdam hosts the first permanent exhibition of its kind in the Netherlands, courtesy of Kossmann.dejong. Entitled Laurens Church, a Monument Full of Stories, the exhibition serves to bring the turbulent past of the church to a wider public.

Amsterdam-based event architects Kossmann.dejong (Herman Kossmann and Mark de Jong) applied their characteristic methods to the project, combining various disciplines and media to create a multi-sensory experience. The aim of the project is to present the rich and varied history of the Laurens Church in a uniquely different way, and to arouse curiosity in the visitor about the legends behind this monument. 

Due to the bombing of Rotterdam during the second World War, many people don’t realize the city had a rich history before the coming of its modern buildings. When the St. Laurens Church was rebuilt after the war, it didn’t have the same charm as before. Thanks to this exhibition, the church’s charisma is restored.


Laurens Church, a Monument Full of Stories isn’t an exhibition in the traditional sense of the word, as the history of the building itself is presented instead of a selection of artefacts. “The layout has added a new layer to the church’s modest reconstruction architecture,” says Herman Kossmann. “It has not become an exhibition in the space, rather the space has become the exhibition.” Kossmann.dejong’s design for the church is based on stories about the building which have been collected over five centuries. These stories create a bridge between the original layout of the church and modern objects and multimedia presentations on show that serve to inform both tourists and the inhabitants of the city.



The ten chapels of the church have been designed to illustrate a specific theme, each one with a different approach and feel. These themes represent a part of the Laurens Church and the city of Rotterdam, speaking of the past, life and death, about the bombing of the city and its rebuilding, and about the silence of the city. In one chapel, walls are adorned with illustrations that surround a modern version of scriptures. While another simply shows a mirror with the words ‘I will live’ and ‘I will die’ alternating in neon letters. 

The chapel of statues shows the various icons of the catholic church and the chapel of candles lights up with hundreds of LEDs when a prayer candle is lit.

An accompanying audio book – narrated by different voices - complements the exhibition, highlighting some of the stories with more detailed information. Likely not all is revealed: with such a long history, no doubt some legends of the church will stay buried as mysteries.   

The exhibition was inaugurated by HRH the Prince of Orange on 10 September 2010. 

Photography: Thijs Wolzak 
Click on the images for an enlarged version

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