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Miscellaneous > 17.4 Exhibition Design

Peace Was Made Here. The Treaty Of Utrecht 1713.

by De Vrijer Van Dongen

The exhibition Peace Was Made Here presented the story of two centuries of European conflict that eventually led to the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, a turning point in world history. The 1100m2 exhibition marked the treaty’s 300th anniversary and was part of a bigger, year-long, celebration which included exhibitions and activities for those interested in peace, past and present. The items on show at Centraal Museum Utrecht included historic paintings, prints and objects, which were arranged both chronologically and thematically.  The goal was to design an experience that both informed and engaged a modern-day public about a complex historical narrative. Faced with a limited budget, a complicated story that could not be told by the artifacts only, and a viewing public that doesn’t want to read enormous amounts of text, we set out to work on a concept and design that would fit the bill.  The design we came up with was based on the idea that peace always concerns boundaries of national, economic, religious or ideological nature. Peace is about setting up boundaries or overcoming them. In order to make the complex history that resulted into the Treaty of Utrecht as accessible as possible, we devoted each of the 9 exhibition halls to polar opposite concepts. And so the first hall addressed the ‘Catholic versus Protestant’ divide, while the second hall, featuring Louis XIV and William III, centered on ‘domination versus balance of power,’ etc. This made the dilemma or conflict presented in that particular hall immediately clear. In order to actively engage the visitor in the narrative the contrasting concepts were also tied to a question. These questions were formulated in such a way that they were both historically correct as well as relevant to a modern-day audience.  The concept of boundaries was also incorporated in the graphic design. Each one of the contrasting themes was illustrated by means of a border line consisting of symbols that related to a specific theme. The high walls were used to inform the public about a period of time, locations and events, by means of battle and war dates, place names and quotes. This way visitors were simultaneously guided through time and a map of Europe. Different colors, often contrasting, were used as markers for different geographical territories and identities. The darkness of the Spanish Succession War Hall was followed by the Hall of Peace, which was purposefully kept white, open and  decked in gold elements. While the graphics and overall spatial concept formed a red thread throughout the entire exhibition, each of the exhibition halls also had its own theme, decor and color scheme. Territorial maps were designed for several locations, including the hall dedicated to the Treaty of Utrecht. The most important facts about the negotiations were presented on eight table-tops by means of maps. The design of these three-legged tables was inspired by the original three-legged negotiation table that was originally used, but the modern-day version also includes contemporary design elements referring to road blocks. The idea of boundaries was also present in the spatial design: barriers referred to fortifications. At various locations the visitor could choose between different exhibition routes: for example, by passing through either a Catholic or a Protestant gateway, one ended up in a different narrative. Another confronting decision moment was the choice between life and death. The sombre route entitled ‘death and decay’ led the visitor to gruesome statistics about the violent aspect of warfare, while ‘the path to peace’ brought the visitor to the hall dedicated to the Treaty of Utrecht.  The exhibition ended in a purposely-designed Peace Studio, which invited visitors to experience, explore, make choices and share their views and experiences on peace. After all, peace requires dedication and an active attitude. It did so in 1713 and still does today.

  • Creative Directors Jody van Dongen & Marianne de Vrijer
  • Art Directors Jody van Dongen & Marianne de Vrijer
  • Designers Jody van Dongen & Marianne de Vrijer
  • Illustrators Jody van Dongen & Marianne de Vrijer
  • Photographers De Vrijer Van Dongen, Ernst Moritz
  • Editors Centraal Museum Utrecht (NL)
  • Copywriters Centraal Museum Utrecht (NL), De Vrijer Van Dongen
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