Dom Hans van der Laan

Spiritual father of the Bossche School

Architecture was in Hans van der Laan’s blood. His father Leo was an architect, as were his brothers Jan and Nico. Van der Laan himself studied in Delft under Granpre Moliere from 1923 to 1926. However, architecture was not his only vocation: he left his studies early and became a monk.

His interest in design and architecture remained. Together with his brother Nico, he designed various Catholic buildings over the years. In 1968, Van der Laan moved to the St Benedict’s Abbey in Mamelis near Vaals, which he had completed. His later design for an extension to this abbey was awarded the Limburg Architecture Prize in 1989.

Van der Laan was a theoretician. He asked himself what architecture essentially is and developed a theory about space, shape and size. The plastic number, a three-dimensional elaboration of the golden section, played a central role in this. His study resulted in the now classic treatise ‘Architectural Space’ (1977). To make his ideas about proportions understandable, he developed various tools, including a specific type of abacus and the ‘morfotheek’, a box of bricks based on proportions.

These tools came in handy during the lessons in ecclesiastical architecture that he gave with his brother in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. This course, intended for trained architects who wanted to specialise in church building, gave rise to the Bossche School architectural movement. The influence of this movement soon spread beyond the walls of the church. Van der Laan died in 1991, but his ideas are still being studied and disseminated.

Ir. Dom Hans van der Laan is receiving this award because of his great influence as a theoretician and architect.