Dezeen Magazine

Maarten Baas adds Las Vegas-style signs to Utrecht's Neude Library

Dutch designer Maarten Baas has updated a historic library building with multi-coloured, illuminated signage.

Baas designed the many-layered 3D sign for Neude Library in Utrecht, a former post office that is one of the Dutch city's most revered buildings.

Featuring bold graphics, playful typography and dynamic lighting, the installation gives a highly visible focal point to the library's ordered facade.

Utrecht library sign by Maarten Baas
Maarten Baas designed the sign for Neude Library in Utrecht

Baas – who is known for his tongue-in-cheek approach – wanted to create a design that promoted "energy and noise", rather than the silence that is typically associated with libraries.

"All of my work is open to numerous interpretations, and the interpretations can be of contradictory nature," the designer said.

"Is the installation pointing to the entrance of a casino in Las Vegas or to the portal of a cultural temple?"

Utrecht library sign by Maarten Baas
The design features arrows that point to the library entrance

Built in 1924, the post office building was designed by architect Joseph Crouwel in the style of The Amsterdam School, which incorporates elements of expressionism, art nouveau and art deco.

Baas' design is in stark contrast. Measuring 9.5 metres high by eight metres wide, the sign is formed of a series of graphic arrow motifs.

Utrecht library sign by Maarten Baas
The sign features literary references in Dutch, English and Latin

Lettering spells out English and Dutch words that refer to libraries, including "Boeken Boeken Boeken", which translates as books, books, books, and "Poëzie", which means poetry.

The name of famous authors like Jean-Paul Sartre and Virginia Wolfe sit alongside the face of cartoon rabbit Miffy, who was created by Utrecht-based children's author Dick Bruna.

Latin phrases also feature, such as "Lectori Salutem" (Greetings Reader) and "Scientia potentia est" (Knowledge is power), while "NU!" refers to the world's shortest poem, by Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel.

More ambiguity can be found in the world "Strip", which refers to comics in Dutch but could equally be a reference to the Las Vegas Strip or a strip bar.

Utrecht library sign by Maarten Baas
Dynamic lighting brings the sign to life and highlights different elements

Three programmable LED displays allow the lighting to flick between different types of references, to create tension between "high vs low culture".

Based in 's-Hertogenbosch, Baas is known for designs that include the fairground-inspired Circus furniture, the burnt-wood Smoke furniture and the theatrical Real Time clock.

In an interview with Dezeen in 2017, he said his aim was to "keep on shaking things up".

With this latest project, the designer hopes to bring a sense of positive energy to Utrecht and give the city's residents something new to be proud of.

The photography is by Maarten Noordijk.