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Travel Sketches of the Prix de Rome Trip

Designers: Arthur Staal

In the late 1930s, architect Arthur Staal (1907-1993) made two trips: one to the Mediterranean when he wins the Prix de Rome in 1936, and the other in 1939, purely for his own interests, to the Middle East.

For centuries, Dutch architects travelled to Rome and Paris to study the highpoints of classic European architecture. Those who open ‘Staal’s Box’, however, encounter an entirely different world. Travel sketches of Spain, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine and Syria. This box reveals Staal’s interest in and appreciation of architecture outside of the western architectural canon. Today, after centuries of cultural imperialism, we no longer journey to Africa or Asia to expose others to our own culture, but to seek inspiration from theirs. Staal’s impressions reveal the architect’s receptivity to and fascination with the architecture, landscape and people of these regions.

During these trips, Staal captured impressions of his journeys in hundreds of fascinating photos. Armed with a Leica camera, he not only made a photographic record of the architecture but of everyday life too. His photos present the personal nature of his trip, and reveal the eye of the architect and his fascination for classic, indigenous architecture. But more importantly, the images express his passion for registering ordinary life – the people he encountered, their customs and traditions. The images allow us to accompany Staal on his extraordinary travels. His photos paint a fascinating picture of the era while simultaneously exuding a sense of timelessness with restrained landscapes, images of artefacts and scenes of cultural-anthropological interest.


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