Archive for the 'Van der Laan' Category

maintaining our existence


The house is amongst the first things man needs to maintain his existence in nature: Initium vitae hominis aqua et panis et vestimentum et domus protegens turpitudinem (Sirach XXIX 28). Unlike other living beings, we are not provided by nature with food, clothes and a house, but thrown back on our own resources; it is our intellect, which distinguishes us from these other creatures, that enables us to choose the most suitable form for each of these additions.

Dom Hans van der Laan Architectonic Space


model of St Benedictusberg


From the archive at St Benedictusberg, the model is of Van der Laan’s revised design for the abbey church at his monastery.

St Benedictusberg, Vaals (drawings)


Drawings of his Benedictine monastery by Dom Hans van der Laan:








basilica superiore


basilica inferiore




a comparative study of La Tourette & St Benedictusberg


Abdij St Benedictusberg, Vaals, by Dom Hans van der Laan

The following excerpts are from a paper written in 1987 by Professor Ivor Prinsloo on the occasion of the Centenary of Le Corbusier’s birth. He wished to show ‘the rich and complex inter-relationships between his concern with, and design of … the Dominican Monastery Sainte-Marie de la Tourette at Eveux-sur-Arbrestle, and that of another designer of genius and ineffable wisdom, the Benedictine monk and architect, Father Hans van der Laan and his project, the Abbey of St Benedictusberg near Vaals, Holland.’

Prinsloo makes clear the comparisons between the architects – both interested (divergently) in the monastic ideal; both holding Le Thoronet in high esteem; both fascinated by proportion systems (albeit Van der Laan dismissive of Corbusier’s Modulor). Thereafter, Prinsloo makes a more detailed analysis of both architects’ theories, methodology and buildings separately, before bringing the pair back to comparison in his concluding paragraphs:

… the actions of two architects both perfectly in control of their work, both masters of their craft. Le Corbusier who, in his tragic definition of himself and his architecture, saw monastic life as a model for both, and Dom van der Laan, who simply is a monk. The one, the personification of the artist in the modern world; the other insisting that his is simply part of a shared experience accessible to all. Their buildings … La Tourette and St Benedictusberg, are both founded on precedent and explicit paradigms, and both seek to imbue meaning through measure and proportion.

La Tourette reaches a level of charged poetry, replete with puns and allusions, that grows out of a conflictual – almost dialectical – strategy of design. La Tourette stands awkwardly and heroically apart from nature … In this sense, it is a ‘modern’ building. It speaks of alienation and anomie, but it also speaks of resolution and accommodation.

St Benedictusberg is supremely reconciled with life; there is the sense that it is an extension of a natural and established order. It is movingly confident and secure, and communicates this to any visitor without any recourse to historic or esoteric allusion…

St Benedictusberg secures its timelessness by its very clarity; if La Tourette speaks of charged poetry, St Benedictusberg speaks of superb prose…

Ivor Prinsloo Homage to Genius and Wisdom: Le Corbusier and Dom Hans van der Laan

refectory, library, sacristy, St Benedict’s, Vaals, Dom Hans van der Laan



Van der Laan’s conventual retreat at Roosenberg and Moederklooster Mariazusters van Fransiscus at Waasmunster


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wealth in Moderation


There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.

G.K. Chesterton

Van der Laan’s is an architecture enshrined in the principles of moderation. It is an architecture, nonetheless, that exudes enormous richness.

Whilst only his most ardent disciples would insist on the slavish imitation of Van der Laan’s architecture, there are sound lessons to be learned from the study of his theory and its manifestation in his buildings. These are universal and enduring lessons on the importance of limits; lessons in measured restraint; and lessons of observed moderation. In these more frugal times and with a built environment already littered with turgid icon, these are surely desirable lessons for this architectural generation to learn well and hold true to.

cloister, lavabo and open gallery, Vaals


Photographs of the cloister, lavabo and open gallery at Dom Hans Van Der Laan’s St Benedictusberg, Vaals, taken on the feast of St Leo, November 2010:

Church (basilica superiore), Vaals


Photographs of the church and galleries at Dom Hans Van Der Laan’s St Benedictusberg, Vaals, taken on the feast of St Leo, November 2010:

Atrium, Vaals


Photographs of the atrium at Dom Hans Van Der Laan’s St Benedictusberg, Vaals, taken on the feast of St Leo, November 2010: