F. = Fridericianum

What does it mean to create a new identity for the world’s first purpose-built museum? For over two centuries, the Fridericianum has acted “as a stage for history itself.” During this time the institution withstood contradictory forces while managing to reinvent itself in each era.

 

We became fascinated with the building as surface where history has been inscribed. Engravings from the enlightenment era show the façade and the Zwehrenturm tower, the only elements of the building to survive World War II, almost exactly as they appear today. One of the most historically charged spaces is the pediment of the building formed by the triangular slope of the roof.

 

Johann Heinrich Tischbein d. Ä. (1722–1789), Die Einweihung des Denkmals Friedrichs II., Öl/Leinwand, 1783, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.

Photo: Carroy

 

The pediment appears again and again in archival photographs where it has been used as a site for artists’ work. In 1972, artist James Lee Byars ascended to Fridericianum’s portico, where he called out German names through a megaphone as a performance titled Calling German Names. Lawrence Weiner, Reiner Ruthenbeck, Thomas Zipp, Chiara Fumai, Haus-Rucker-Co and others have also made use of the façade as a stage for their work.

 

James Lee Byars at documenta 5, 1972

 

Our collaboration with the Fridericianum began in the summer of 2013 shortly after Susanne Pfeffer was appointed director. Confronting the history of the building was both irresistible and inevitable when we were invited to reconsider the institution’s visual identity. Our intentions were succinctly summarised on the cover of the twenty-eight-page booklet presenting our proposal: an image of the pediment with the first few letters of Fridericianum circled in red.

 

The identity we have developed with the Fridericianum since is built upon a new typeface named Friderick. Friderick refers to the brass lettering on its iconic façade, particularly the idiosyncratic “S” and “F” letterforms.

The typeface is by no means a faithful revival, but rather our interpretation that considers the context of the Fridericianum today. The letters evoke the pediment, but they don’t fully duplicate their brass counterparts. Each letterform has been thoughtfully reflected upon and reimagined. In addition to the Fridericianum logotype we designed an abbreviated “F.” symbol—which could be thought of as the monogram of the museum’s namesake, Landgrave Frederick II. We introduced this “F.” with posters in Kassel suggesting the many possible words it could stand for: Fiction, Fetish, Follower, Fridericianum…

 

Photo: © Nils Klinger

 

Our identity also includes unique graphics and printed matter for each exhibition where we will continue to explore opportunities to use the museum architecture itself as a support for the identity. An “F.” flag atop the Zwehrenturm tower announces today’s era of the Fridericianum. The museum’s columns are used as a billboard where exhibitions are announced with hand-painted letters, each stretching nearly a half-metre high. Currently under development is a new entrance foyer space that complements the stone remnants of the museum’s original 1779 structure.

 

Photo: © Nils Klinger

Photo: © Nils Klinger

 

Our identity for the Fridericianum draws from the museum and building’s rich history and in doing so aims to take part in the institution’s continued reinvention.

 

See also: Fridericianum IdentityFridericianum FoyerFridericianum WebsiteSpeculations on Anonymous Materials

 

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