Untitled, 2013-2017

Willem de Rooij

Façade curtains
Natural wool
Approximate length 3000m

© 2015, Willem de Rooij

Image copyright Stefan Altenburger

I have a rather strange relationship with physical objects and materials. I try to have as little as possible to do with them.

Willem de Rooij’s prefers a certain intellectual and conceptual definition of art: concentration and reduction, a considered approach rather than shooting from the hip; working with one’s head and not so much with one’s hands. But however controlled execution may be, these works also have an inbuilt awareness that their effect on the viewer may be the exact opposite. Paradoxical as it may sound, clarity and ambiguity are not mutually exclusive here. “Everything we do has to do with differences,” he says: “By which I mean differences in context.” This dependence on context, the specific position of the viewer, and bringing together opposites play a key role in de Rooij’s project for Swiss Re Next, which involved designing curtains tracing the entire exterior façade of the five office floors. That corresponds to a width of almost 250 metres per floor, adding up to a total of about 3000m He took advantage of this grand scale, designing his curtains in regard to the space as a whole. Subdivided into ten segments per wall, the colour changes gradually from corner to corner, from pale to dark. Overall, this gives each storey two pale and two dark corners, each pair facing each other diagonally across the space. How the curtain is perceived depends not only on the viewer, but also on other factors: daylight, for example, and lighting conditions. During the day, the coarsely woven fabric allows quite a good view of the outside: you can see the nearby lake and the city; but it’s hard to see in. At night the opposite is true: then the lights in the rooms make Swiss Re Next with its undulating glass façade look permeable. Viewed from outside, the warm tones of the curtains give the building a gentle shimmer, while offering those inside a certain sense of comfort. The curtain indeed is an integral part of the façade, presenting itself as a kind of “soft architecture”, as an element that is not rigid but flexible. And this brings the building alive.