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Marmoleum stories

The Detective

Santje Pander

Santje Pander

In 2018 Santje Pander graduated in Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Currently she is employed at the UvA as a Post-Master trainee specializing in restoration of historic Interiors, with a specific interest in post-war architecture.

Her Master thesis research was on the 1958 UNESCO Press Room designed by Gerrit Rietveld. In 2018, she was granted the 4D Research Award from the UvA. This made it possible to continue with a digital reconstruction research of the UNESCO Press Room in collaboration with the 4D Research Lab.

Santje Pander

An architectural gem

When UNESCO’s headquarters building was inaugurated in 1958, hidden within its concrete walls was an architectural gem: the UNESCO Press Room designed by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (1888-1964), a national gift from the Dutch government to UNESCO. What made the Press Room so unique both visually and conceptually was, in large part, how the multicoloured geometry of the linoleum floor, which covered the entire room, was contiguous with the tables. Rietveld’s exceptional and visionary use of linoleum resulted in an interior looking more like an artwork than an office.

Scale-model of the UNESCO building in Paris, 1958, photo Marijke Griffioen
Salvaged table from the UNESCO Press Room, stored at the RCE, photo Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency

Salvaged furniture

In the 1980s, the interior was dismantled, and after a period of discussion, the furniture was brought to the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency for safekeeping. A lot of architectural elements, like the wall, floor and some furniture got lost. Because the furniture that came to the Netherlands was in bad shape, up until now it has been hard to reinstall it somewhere else. Next to that, important information was missing to complement the salvaged furniture. In fact, no colour photographs of the Press Room has been identified yet. The existing images are black and white photos that have been hand coloured.

In a wish to restore the interior of the Press Room in 2017 an expert meeting was organized by the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency as the kickoff for a research project that is still ongoing.
Several researchers have been working on the Press Room. Santje Pander joined the team in 2018 during her master Restoration and Conservation at the University of Amsterdam.

The linoleum archive

In the Spring of 2018 Santje visited the archive of Forbo Flooring. The linoleum used for the floor and the furniture pattern in the Press Room was originally produced by Linoleum Krommenie (now Forbo Flooring). In the archive which treasures collection books of over 100 years old Santje discovered detailed information about the specific Marmoleum colours Rietveld selected for his design.

Linoleum production colour samples of 1958, Forbo Archive Assendelft, photo Santje Pander
Still from 3D digital model of the original Press Room created by 4D Research Lab of the University of Amsterdam

The reconstruction

Currently Santje is building a 3D digital model of the original room, using archival Marmoleum colour samples as reference. The model is created together with 4D Research Lab of the University of Amsterdam. The curator and conservators of the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency hope eventually to build a permanent physical reconstruction of the room.

Special thanks to:

Santje Pander | University of Amsterdam
Merel van Schrojenstein Lantman and Jessica Hensel | University of Amsterdam
Gal Keshet | directing, filming and editing
Simone de Vries | consultancy
Tijm Lanjouw | 4D Research Lab

RCE | Sylvia van Schaik, Ron Kievits, Dorian Meijnen
Stichting Erven Rietveld | Martine Eskes
Rietveld Stichting | Martine Eskes
UNESCO | Eng Sengsavang
UNESCO | Collection of UNESCO Archives

Sketches and photos of the Press Room depicted in the movie are from documentation provided by the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency and come from to the following sources;
UNESCO | Collection of UNESCO Archives, Het Nieuwe Instituut Rotterdam | Rietveld Archief, D. Berretty/GAMMA RAPHO

Filmed footage inauguration UNESCO building-© UNESCO for moving images

“Het hoofdkwartier van de Unesco te Parijs” Linoleumnieuws 1958, vol.10, page 18-19
“UNESCO gebouw Parijs” by A. Buffinga, article in Bouw,1959 vol.14 (40) 1130-1140
“In Search of the Original Press Room”, article by Eng Sengsavang, Santje Pander, Dorian Meijnen in Link (Lien) bulletin UNESCO |AFUS, 2019 vol.135 page 34