general info
address: Museumpark, Westzeedijk 341, Rotterdam
architect: O.M.A. Rem Koolhaas with Fuminori Hoshino, Toni Adam and many more
realised: 1992
design of the logo & signage: Tel Design, Ronald van Lit, 1992
renovation: 2014

letter details
category: sans serif
specifics: L and A are mirrored horizontally
narrow or wide: more wide
all strokes the same: yes
capitals or romans: capitals
cursive or upright: upright
font family: DIN

Wim van Krimpen, director of the Kunsthal, took the initiative. In his foreword for “Logo’s for the Kunsthal Rotterdam”, a bilingual catalogue published on the occasion of the opening of the Kunsthal on 31 October 1992, he writes: “…I confined to the designer Guus Ros that I wanted the Kunsthal to pay attention to the graphic arts as well as other fields.” A logo competition was organized and Guus Ros made sure that for one year, every week, a new logo for the Kunsthal was published in NRC. All 52 logo’s were on display at the opening of the Kunsthal.

The logo appears on all entrances and on the ventilation and cooling tower.

On January 20, 1992, “all creatives” at Tel Design were invited to hand in a design for a logo and it was Ronald van Lit who won the Tel Design studio competition. Jaco Emmen, at that time designer now director of Tel Design, told me that the idea behind Van Lit’s logo is simple: The Kunsthal is a museum without collection and for each exhibition the art objects need to be transported to and from the Kunsthal. This is why Ronald van Lit chose icons used on cardboard transportation boxes, like: “this side up”, “fragile” etc. The combination of the symbol for elevator and “this side up” made the logo.
To reinforce the temporary, informal idea of a simple template, just a stamp, the logo is in black and white only. The A and L were set upside-down, a joke with the arrows of “this side up”.

Logo, word mark and the DIN letter type remain unchanged since 1992.

Kunsthal Logo Publication
Kunsthal Logo

In an interesting analysis of the Kunsthal (NRC, 31 october 1992), journalist Bernard Hulsmann uses the metaphor of the “Magic Box”: One by one, the Kunsthal reveals its different spaces, materials, atmospheres. He wrote this article for NRC the day before the opening.

The Kunsthal is a building for temporary exhibitions located on a dike, in between a road and a park. It is conceived as a sequence of different spaces, radically crossed by a public path (running north-south) giving access to the park and to the building, and a public service road (running east-west). The Kunsthal is a square of 60m x 60m and spans a difference in height of 6 meters. It refers to a typical section of the Dutch dike house.

It has three exhibition halls, an auditorium and a restaurant. Just after delivery, the building was photographed by Hans Werlemann who one afternoon asked all collaborators of OMA to act as figurants. The photos were published in SMLXL (p.432-467), the illustrious OMA monograph designed in collaboration with graphic designer Bruce Mau published in 1995. At the back cover it says: “This massive book is a novel about architecture. The book combines essays, manifestoes, diaries, fairy tales, travelogues, a cycle of meditations on the contemporary city, with work produced by Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture over the past twenty years.”

SMLXL Kunsthal

In SMLXL, together with the directions to guide you through the building: “Walk down, turn the corner”, “It is dark, with a forest of five columns”, an excerpt of the theatre play “En attendant Godot” by Beckett is projected on the pages showing the Kunsthal. The instructions are like scenic directions that go with the dialogue of the play. According to Rem Koolhaas in the lecture he gave at the AA in 1995, on the occasion of the publication of SMLXL in 1995, it was to test the sequence of spaces. So, which space comes first? Which space second? Do we start with the entrance or hide it and reveal it later? When shall we introduce the garden? In short, this explains the narrative of the building. The building not as an object, but as a stage where life – “the blathering” says Estragon in “En attendant” – is happening.

“We try to have almost cinematic sequences. Our buildings are not designed as objects.” From:, 23 september 2002

BIBLIOGRAPHY/ SOURCES 23 september 2020
Logo’s voor de Kunsthal Rotterdam,
Wim van Sinderen naar een idee van Wim van Krimpen, Kunsthal Rotterdam, 1992
OMA, Rem Koolhaas, Bruce Mau, 010 Publishers, Rotterdam, 1995
Understanding Samuel Beckett in 90 minutes with Paul Strethern (2005), Youtube
De Kunsthal lijkt wel een toverdoos,
Bernard Hulsman, NRC, 31 oktober 1992,
23 september 2002