Keeping it real(time)

Every year, around 15 million people pass through Departure Lounge 2 on their way to catch intercontinental flight services and transfers. It’s hard for those travellers to miss the enormous clock ‘with the man inside’. The clock is an iconic work of art that also helps travellers get to their gate on time. It combines functionality with an extraordinary experience. At Amsterdam Airport Schiphol we are always on the lookout for new ways to amaze our travellers, so art has a special meaning at our airport. It has to be decorative, and it has to both provide travellers with something to look at while they wait and give them a positive sensation.

Design of a 'Boss'

Maarten Baas was tasked with creating an iconic piece of art that combines the functional with the experiential. The clock makes you wonder if the man in the box is really there, day in, day out, painting clock hands on the glass plate. The initial idea came to the artist in 2009, when Baas developed the concept of ‘real time’ clocks. In 2016 he created a unique design for the new departure lounge at Schiphol, a design inspired by the multitude of employees in overalls who work at airports.

Around the clock

This clock has no ordinary hands. Every minute is painted specially and then wiped away by a man in blue overalls. A small door and a staircase are incorporated into the back of the clock, to give the man access to his workplace. The primary colours – the red bucket, yellow cloth and blue overalls – are a nod to Dutch artists Piet Mondriaan and Gerrit Rietveld.

How is the clock made?

The clocks are recorded in a studio over the course of 12 hours; hence the name: Real Time Clocks. The person doing the work receives extensive training beforehand, to ensure that the right lines appear at the right moment. Getting the timing right is an art in itself! The painters do get breaks to eat and go to the toilet, but there’s no room in the schedule for anything longer than that. The clocks can also be found in the collections of the Rijksmuseum, the Victoria Museum in Melbourne, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris. It is kinda special that Schiphol is included on this list, right?

Looking for an activity to pass the time before your plane leaves? Tonight’s shift will be an hour longer for the man in the clock. Tick, tock...