100 years of Maison d'Artiste myth - The future belongs to engineers

News - 16 March 2023 - Communication BK

In 1923, Maison d'Artiste was designed by Cor van Eesteren and Theo van Doesburg in Paris. A world-famous design, but never built. Led by em. prof Mick Eekhout, students at the time built a prototype in 2002, which will soon be placed on the faculty's forecourt. Eekhout recently developed an innovative method by which the maison house could be realised in a 1:1 scale.

Impossible to build

The 100-year-old but never built design of the Maison d'Artiste received worldwide attention for its floating character and distinct colours. However, the design was also seen as impossible to build: large cantilevers from a central core that was too narrow. The original cardboard design model was lost to flooding as early as 1924. Fortunately, some single black-and-white photographs remained available. Students developed reconstructions from these black-and-white photos in 2002 and 2003 and built the large prototype as a small building scale 1 to 5. This model has normally been on display on Jaffalaan for years and is now coming to the faculty forecourt for a few months. 

Students worked on the puzzle

Second-year Architecture students from the ‘Productie en Uitvoering’ course reconstructed the original geometry of the Maison with all its canopies and cantilevered spaces, shifted and stacked one above the other, from the black-and-white photographs twenty years ago. They used the geodetic survey methods of the subfaculty of Geodesy to do so. The exterior was extremely spacious because the various room spaces are loose or suspended above each other. The uncoloured, white model is already very inspiring for architects: each room has its own angularity. The exterior is extremely spacious because the different room spaces stand or hang separately above each other. 

Mick Eekhout on the challenge to students at the time: "The Maison challenges students to make improbable designs. But those designs must also be technically feasible to be conceived to be built in the same time it is designed. And not only after 100 years when technology is much more advanced. Spatial and technical design should go hand in hand."

Colour palette

Of course, colour reconstruction was not easy from those black-and-white photographs, as there are no photographs depicting a well-known coloured painting by the painter Theo van Doesburg in black and white. Calibration of colours (as was done with Mondrian's Paris Atelier) was not possible here. The '1923 Talens colour brochure' was used as a starting point. Several analyses including reflections from the wallpaper, strength of the lamps and the quality of the photo negatives were used to determine the colours. A calorimeter was also flown in from the US to accurately identify nuances.  This research took place at the Nederlands Architectuur instituut, now Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam.

Experimental and innovative

The design still continues to intrigue. Because of the centenary commemoration 1923-2023, em. prof. Mick Eekhout therefore took up the challenge of this top design and developed its construction feasibility. Instead of building in the heavy concrete, new materials and methods were considered. Using a high-tech method of lightweight carbon-epoxy sandwich panels for walls and floors for a self-supporting structure and stiffened and supported with laminated pre-stressed glass, this improbable possible task is as of now feasible. 
Eekhout: "My ambitions are always away is the innovative methods and the high-tech methods: using the most advanced means and materials to make a the extreme design come true."


A total of 20 students were involved at the time. Former students Joris Braat, Cindy Beckers, Huub Metsch and Siebe Broersma are still members of the foundation 'Maison d'Artiste Prototype. Mick Eekhout is the chairman of the foundation. He thought the 1923-2023 centenary was a good time to go all the way with the development towards a digital renaissance of the Maison. 

More information

The scale model with colour will be placed on the forecourt for three months from 27 March to 5 June 2023. It will also move to several locations in the Netherlands.

On the medallion in the Zuidserre, there will be an exhibition of explanatory posters and several scale models of the Maison d'Artiste from 17 March to 17 April in which the spatiality of the design can be clearly seen from multiple angles.

In addition, to mark 100 years of Maison d 'Artiste, a mini-symposium '100 Years of Myth Maison d'Artiste' will be organised on 6 April in the Berlage Hall.