The Dutch Ministry of Finance in the Netherlands recently organised a contest for the creation of a new 5 euro commemorative coin paying tribute to the history of Dutch architecture. Both Dutch historical architecture as well as their innovative conceptual architecture and modern design are popular across the globe. Berlage, Rietveld, Dudok and Koolhaas; those are but a few names in an extensive list of renowned architects who built and build the international reputation of this Dutch architecture. Mostly through stone and steel, but also through numerous publications do these influential architects disseminate their ideas.
A number of architectural offices and artists were invited to participate. Amongst them was Stani Michiels, a visual artist and architect who was born in 1973 in Geel (Belgium), and lives and works in Belgium (Beveren) and the Netherlands (Amsterdam). His entry was selected and the newly minted coin presented on Wednesday November 29th. Stani breaks down the fascinating creation process behind his winning design on his blog SPE IDE – Stani’s Python Editor.
Front of the commemorative coin Traditionally the front of the coin must portray the Queen. For this side Stani Michiels’ interpretation focuses on the rich history of Dutch architecture. The portrait of Queen Beatrix is composed of the names of important architects in Dutch history. To select those names Stani saw a number of possibilities. The most obvious were to compile a chronological list or to arrange the names in alphabetical order. Yet Stani took a different and novel approach: he used the internet as a seismograph to determine the importance of each architect by counting the number of hits.
Detail of the front of the commemorative coin He then arranged those names in gradually decreasing size, spiraling towards the center of the coin. Only the first 109 names could fit, and the ones closest to the center are not readable without a magnifying glass. By applying a monoline sans of his own creation and having the stroke width increase and decrease within the characters (see detail above) he conjured up the portrait of Queen Beatrix.
The back of the coin displays its value. Stani wanted to reflect the international impact of the pronounced conceptual approach of contemporary Dutch architecture. This impact is represented by the books published by those architects, which made Stani decide to treat the edge of the coin as a virtual book shelf. He used an ingenious system to have the books on this shelf delineate the shape of The Netherlands.
Stani started with the shape of The Netherlands and a number of random birds.
He then positioned a bird on the capital of each Dutch province. In the final design every one of those random birds was substituted with a bird that is typical for that province.
The next step was to “unwrap” the shape of The Netherlands into a linear representation.
Stani matched this new relief with a number of books. Both the exact amount of books and the thickness of their spines were crucial as the skyline they created had to match this relief as faithfully as possible.
The final step was to rewrap the border of the country to its original shape and combine this with the bird pattern.
As you can read on his blog the design was entirely created with free software, mainly custom software in Python within his own SPE editor. In the final stage he had to collaborate closely with the technicians of the Royal Dutch Mint. Irrespective of the ingenious creation proces the coin was of course evaluated solely on its artistic merits. It is a deserved winner, as it is a striking and very original design.
10.11.2008 - 14.07.13
Posted by Unzipper
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