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 characteristics
category: sans serif
specifics: L and A are mirrored horizontally
narrow or wide: more wide with wide spacing
all strokes the same: yes
capitals or romans: capitals
bold or light: bold
cursive or upright: upright

Wim van Krimpen, Director of the Kunsthal took the initiative. In his foreword for “Logo’s for the Kunsthal Rotterdam”, a bilingual catalogue published at 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 one year long, every week, a new logo for the Kunsthal was published in NRC. The briefing for the designers was short: just a drawing of the Kunsthal and the purpose of the Kunsthal: a building to host temporary exhibitions. All 59 logo’s were on display at the opening of the Kunsthal.

The logo appears on all entrances and on the ventilation and cooling tower. Jaco Emmen, Director of Tel Design told me that the idea behind the logo is simple: The Kunsthal is a museum without collection, for each exhibition, every art object needs to be transported to and from the Kunsthal and each art object needs to be wrapped carefully. This is why Ronald van Lit chose icons used on cardboard transportation boxes, like: “this side up”, “fragile” etc. A combination of the symbol for elevator and “this side up” form the basic idea for the logo. To reinforce the temporary, informal idea of a simple template, just a stamp, the logo is in black and white only.

To give the word “Kunsthal” more character, the A was set upside-down, a joke with the arrows of “this side up”.

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

…to be continued.

Kunsthal Logo's publication

In an interesting analysis of the Kunsthal, the 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.

Kunsthal, Rotterdam
The Kunsthal is a building for temporary exhibitions located on a dike, in between a highway and a park. It is conceived as a sequence of different spaces, radically crossed by a public road (running north-south) giving access to the park and to the building, and a public service road (running east-west). The museum is a square of 60m x 60m and spans a difference in height of 6 (some say 5) meters, like a typical Dutch dike house.

It has three exhibition halls, an auditorium and a restaurant. Just delivered, the building was photographed by Hans Werlemann who one afternoon asked all collaborators of OMA to act as figurants. The photos were used in SMLXL (p.432-467), a monograph in collaboration with graphic designer Bruce Mau and 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”, 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, he 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 1995,
23 september 2002