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World Architecture Day
"Tartan ... is a supreme example of the integration of shape and form."
~ Dom Hans Van Der Laans, "On a Scottish Tartan" (1969)
Hear! Hear! This author certainly agrees with this sentiment. Mathematicians, architects, artists, and tartan aficionados may appreciate how others have reconciled the integration and interdisciplinary connections between mathematics, sciences, technology, and other areas of invention and discovery with tartan! The Grey Douglas tartan was taken as the quintessential example of this blending by Dom Hans Van Der Laan, a Dutch architect, theorist, and Benedictine monk who employed a detailed study of the Grey Douglas tartan and the spatial relationships between the light grey and black of the sett. His architectural designs (see below) embody his views on the subject and have been described as " .. a fascinating interdisciplinary space located somewhere in the vicinity of a traditional weaver's tartan thread counts, architectural draughtsmanship and quasi-religious, mathematical treatises." Architecturally embodied tartan! 📐📏 ⚗️⚛️
Even before the recognition and articulation of the synergy between mathematics, art, architecture, and other areas, some, such as Dom Hans Van Der Laan, a Dutch architect, theorist, and Benedictine monk, had already integrated these concepts into their personal philosophy and their work and viewed the tartan as a special example of a vistual and artistic integration which could be used to inspire other forms.
From Networks of Design: Proceedings of the 2008 Annual International Conference of Design History Society (UK), University College, Falmouth, regarding Van Der Laan's analysis:
"In his essay, he goes on to employ a detailed study of the Grey Douglas tartan to demonstrate how the spatial relationships between the light grey and black of the sett are indicative of, and can generate, a formula with which to consider how human relationships mirror architectural structures, and in turn how those same structures might relate to landscape. He executed detailed drawings of the proportionate width of the different coloured stripes, of the actual appearance of tartans and demonstrations of the changing relationship between figure and ground according to how the width of a stripe is varied."
It is ironic that the inspiration for Van Der Laan's musings settled on a tartan from a book much debated by scholars and historians.
This Grey Douglas tartan from the Vestiarium Scoticum (1842), is referred to by John Telfer Dunbar as "probably the most controversial costume book ever written". The authors, the Sobieski Stuart brothers, enjoyed a popular following among the Scottish gentry in the early Victorian era, and in the spirit of the times, added mystery, romance and some spurious historical documentation to the subject of tartan.
The book itself is purported to be a reproduction, with color illustrations, of a 15th-century manuscript on the clan tartans of Scottish families. Shortly after its publication it was denounced as a forgery, and the "Stuart" brothers who brought it forth were also denounced as impostors for claiming to be the grandsons of Bonnie Prince Charlie. It is generally accepted today that neither the brothers themselves nor the Vestiarium are what they were purported to be.
Nevertheless, the role of the book in the history of Scottish tartans is immense, with many of the designs and patterns contained therein passing into the realm of "official" clan tartans.
For more on Dom Han Van Der Laan's integrative philosophy and influence, click the photo of one of his designs, the St. Benedictusberg Abbey at Vaals.