Hofman’s delightful giant objects create excitement, buzz, and animation in public spaces. People come to see it, talk about it, and laugh about it. Seen from far away they look like real-life soft toys, but from nearby they are imposing installations that make people feel small. This is meant to create a bond between the viewers. ‘The sheer size of the object makes us all feel small, and this creates a sense of equality,’ explains Hofman.
He strengthens this feeling of connection by asking local volunteers to help with the construction and by using locally sourced materials. The large yellow rabbit was built together with 25 local volunteers from the Swedish material takspån. These are flat, wooden shingles arranged in an overlapping design.
Hofman believes that statues that bring joy should be placed in the public space where they can be seen by everyone. ‘It doesn’t matter whether you’re a banker or a plumber, you can engage with the object in exactly the same way. You don’t need cultural baggage for this.’
Some communities want to keep a sculpture at all costs. This is what happened with the Feestaardvarken (Party Aardvark) in Arnhem. At 30 metres long, 9 metres high, and 13 metres wide, this is the largest open-air sculpture in the Netherlands. The dark red aardvark, wearing a party hat, is relaxing on his back, and is a playful invitation for children to climb and clamber all over it. This work has since become one of the Sights & Landmarks to see in Arnhem on TripAdvisor. The people of Arnhem have come to consider the sculpture as part of their city. The Feestaardvarken has been disconnected from the ideas of the artists and has, instead, become a part of the lives of the local people, as they are the ones who are interacting with it and enjoying its presence in their city.
Hofman’s work also prompts questions about the nature of architecture. Architects have long since moved away from designs meant to last an eternity, but perhaps their focus should now move toward the temporary. How can an architect ensure that people enjoy and are continuously inspired by their neighbourhood and encourage them to constantly see their living environment in a new light? Should the buildings of the future be more responsive?
‘The increase in flexible construction comes as no surprise,’ according to Hofman. ‘Outdoor spaces are becoming increasingly important as it combines the social aspect with living. You can create new experiences by highlighting the right and logical qualities of a living environment in a different way. This can be done by using interesting materials and combinations, while showing a passion for the materials and craftsmanship in the finishing ensures that people respect the work.’
‘Scale is great way to surprise people: from very small to very big and combinations of these two elements. Placing something large in a small space, just like the Feestaardvarken, works incredibly well. As an architect you can also use the characteristics of the seasons, such as blooming and wilting, in your work...’
Society is changing at a rapid pace. Hofman’s work demonstrates the importance of engaging with the people at the location, of talking to them and actively communicating. ‘You need to see if people are energized by a sculpture or space or whether it excludes them. You have to decide whether you’re going to impose a sculpture or building or if you’re going to work on it together with the users.’ According to Hofman’s vision, continuous interaction is essential. ‘A city has to remain flexible. Large imposing buildings and smaller lighter buildings and open and closed spaces have to create a good synergy, which is something that should also be present in society. It must be balanced and exciting!’
the Netherlands 2010