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Dom Hans van der Laan (1904-1991)

Dom Hans van der Laan

Hans van der Laan was born in Leiden on 29 December 1904 as the ninth child of architect Leonard van der Laan (1864-1942) and Anna Stadhouder (1871-1941). His paternal grandfather (1871-1941) had been a gardener at the royal gardens in The Hague, his maternal grandfather a tailor in Leiden. In 1891 his father settled his architect’s office in Leiden. He married in 1893 and founded a family of eleven children, six boys and five girls. Of the boys, Jan, the eldest (1896-1986), Hans and the youngest, Nico (1908-1986) became also architect after studying at the ‘Technische Hogeschool’ of Delft. Hans began his study in 1923, two years after he finished his secondary school. The year 1921 he passed in a sanatorium and the year 1922 he was employed at the office of his father, who had entered shortly before a partnership with his eldest son Jan.

During those two years Hans spent much time on his growing interest in architecture by reading. For instance, H.P. Berlage’s book: ‘Schoonheid in samenleving’ (‘Beauty in society’) opened for him a world that evidently was absent in Delft. Architectural education in those days was generally confined to nineteenth-century neoclassicism and all teachers originated from before the first world-war. Henri Evers, the architect of the Rotterdam town hall, set the tone in Delft. But in 1924 M. Granpré Molière (1883-1972) was appointed to be professor for the first two years of study. In him the young student found a true master. But after a few months, in the autumn of 1925 he received teachings from professor Van der Steur, with whom he directly came in conflict. Students in their third year of study had to make their own designs, but those of Hans van der Laan were all rejected. In the same autumn he founded, together with some fellow-students, a study-group, the ‘Bouwkundige Studiekring’ BSK (‘Architectural Study Circle’), aiming to discover themselves the very basics of architecture, which they missed in regular teaching. During a year Hans guided this group, assembling at professor Granpré Molière’s house. The papers of Le Corbusier and those of ‘De Stijl’-group were discussed, as well as the just published book of Jacques Maritain: ‘Art et scholastique’. The last lecture given by Hans in the BSK was about the Domtoren in Utrecht and implied a serious trial to fully investigate the ins and outs of its measures. the rest of the biography is to be found at : has the Rosbeek special and Praktijk invitation now available.

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