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A new (old) window

A new old window
Stained glass finds a new home 

Lettertraffic in the Middle-Ages

Lettertraffic in the Middle-Ages

The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) administers a collection of 20th century stained-glass windows from both important Dutch designers and unknown craftsmen. The RCE aims to bring those windows not on loan to museums to the attention of architects, designers and property owners. Through re-purposing a greater public will be able to enjoy these decorative windows.

A cultural valuation, which involves defining the window's significance, is an important part of such a re-purposing as it aids in finding a suitable new location.


To create a valuation model for stained-glass windows, RCE researchers performed a case study of a selection of stained glass windows from the State-collection.The windows were valuated according to the new guidelines developed for cultural valuation in general. The Hofman windows were examined to gain an impression of the re-purposing process using the valuation guidelines.

Op locatie Verkeer door de aether

Hofman window

Pieter Hofman (1885-1965) designed these stained-glass windows in 1958 for the former PTT [Netherlands Post Office] headquarters on the Kortenaerkade in The Hague. Research showed that they were fabricated by the De Lint Glasstudio in Delft for the stairwell of a wing added to the PTT complex in the 1950s. When this construction was demolished in the 1980s Hofman's windows ended up in the depot of the former Netherlands Office for Fine Arts (RBK). It was an elongated, glass wall of about 90 square meters, and slightly rounded as well. Just try to find a new home for that!

Medieval and modern

The elongated wall consists of rectangular panels of clear leaded glass, partly frosted with grisaille, a layer of grey, stained glass paint. Under the depictions Hofman added the titles, in which the letters were alternately left blank and filled in with grisaille: Post Traffic in the Middle Ages and Traffic through the Ether.
The medieval 'post' he represented with monks, minstrels, horsemen and footmen bringing messages to and from castles and monasteries. For modern communication Hofman chose a figure representing radio contact between 'the five human races', including Indians with a horse and an ostrich.


The current owner of the old PTT building is Nuffic, the Dutch organization for international cooperation in higher education. When in 2009 a RCE staff member showed the Hofman windows during a lecture, a member of the public pointed out that Nuffic was working on the renovation of the monument from which the windows originally came. Was this not the opportunity to give the windows a new home? Contact was immediately made with the construction supervisor.

The former PTT headquarters on the Kortenaerkade, The Hague

The former PTT headquarters on the Kortenaerkade, The Hague


Nuffic is an international organization that offers students opportunities to study abroad. In that respect, their mission matches the theme of the windows perfectly: the ethnic groups represent the international character and the travelling historical figures show a parallel with the exchange of students. The thematic match was in order, but that was not the case for the size of the window. This did not match the architecture of the building element to be renovated.

Seeking a place

The renovation architect eventually created two walls near the entrance. Post Traffic in the Middle Ages found a place in the lobby as the wall of a conference room. Traffic through the Ether was positioned on the right side in the glass wall forming the partition between lobby and reception. As this area is much lower than the original staircase (where as much light as possible must be let in), the strips of transparent glass above and below the figure groups were superfluous. The new placement would change both function and the spatial effect of the windows. Yet the owner and restoration architect had sufficient grounds to justify the omission: the appropriate communication theme and the desire to integrate a historical component in the renovated building.

Peter Hofman, Koningen [Kings] 3-28, glass windows for the Supreme Court.

Peter Hofman, Koningen [Kings] 3-28, glass windows for the Supreme Court building (The Hague), 1938. Part of the Stained glass case study workshop. 

Restoration Plan

Hence a restoration plan was drawn up in close collaboration with Glasatelier Henk van Kooy in Rotterdam. The window had first and foremost to be cleaned from the paint stains, sealant, putty, bird droppings and rusty water on the back. But there was also damage: in various places were broken soldering points and pieces of glass, cracked lead, severely damaged corners, damage resulting from removal and missing or misplaced glass from a previous restoration. It was agreed that Van Kooy would restore the windows with minimal intervention.

A new home

The PTT windows have once more found a new home and visibility as well as renewed significance for many. Their architectural function has been respected, though not in its original role as a stairwell window. The distance from the viewer to the windows has also changed, as is the way the light falls on and through the windows. Not ideal but optimal under the circumstances.

During the Stained Glass Case Study workshop in 2012.

During the Stained Glass Case Study workshop in 2012.


An ideal reinstallation of monumental stained-glass windows naturally does not exist. It is almost impossible for objects that were once designed specifically for one location to be found an equally suitable place the second time round. Still, the process of replacement can be well informed to a certain extent. This also applies to the determination of the cultural value or significance of the windows. That often occurs quite tacitly, but it is better to inventory the intangible values of an object according to established guidelines. That way the aspects of the replacement that must be maintained and the basis of the decision-making are transparent to all concerned.

J.P.F. Kraus, Vlucht [Flight], 1952.

J.P.F. Kraus, Vlucht [Flight], 1952. One of the windows from the Stained Glass Case Study.

Weighing scales

Since 2013 in the Netherlands, such guidelines are available in On the museum scales (see Results). The cultural value of the Hofman windows was determined with the help of these guidelines.
All available information about the artist and his background was collected; his themes, style, art process and techniques but also his clients, the rest of his oeuvre, the place of the window in his oeuvre and the initial placement of the window. All this information contributed to the interpretation of the work, determined the original function, and helped in the decision-making process.


Concessions are inevitable when seeking a new place for monumental glass art. But that is always better (in most cases) than banishment to a depot or sacrifice on the free market - situations in which the window is no longer on public display. The true significance of a monumental artwork lies ultimately in its public visibility.

About the Artist

Pieter (P.A.H.) Hofman (1886-1965) was born in Teteringen near Breda. He was employed as a glazier, artist, graphic designer and book cover designer. One of his first assignments in 1918 was designing posters for the Utrecht Jaarbeurs [Exhibition centre]. An ornamental artist, Hofman used a somewhat angular Art Deco style in his designs. His many clients included the publishers Meulenhoff, Nijgh and Van Ditmar and Sijthoff. Even as a glazier Hofman won fame. His stained-glass windows are related in style to the work of his contemporaries, Johan Thorn Prikker and Willem van Konijnenburg.