Ramses Shaffy, Lifelines - CODAworx

Ramses Shaffy, Lifelines

Submitted by Marjan Laaper

Client: Amsterdam Municipal Council

Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Completion date: 2018

Artwork budget: $300,000

Project Team


Onno van den Muysenberg

Amsterdam Municipal Council

Art Consultant

Veronique Baar



Jan Benthem and Peter Alberts

Benthem Crouwel Architects

Industry Resource

Geurt Roelofsen

Interior Glassolutions BV


Nigaio Wijnen and Rob Jansma

Ramses Shaffy Art Project

Industry Resource

VIA NoordZuidlijn

Visser & Smit Bouw.


Public Art Commission, Title: “Ramses Shaffy, Lifelines.” Artist: Marjan Laaper. Location: Vijzelgracht Station at Amsterdam’s new North-South metro-line, The Netherlands. Dimensions: 24 x 13 meters. Materials: 175 plates of hardened glass of 180 x 100 cm each, mounted in a metal grid, LED-light boxes, computer program.


Starting-point for this public art commission was to design an art work for the 24 x 13 meter glass ceiling above the escalators at subway station Vijzelgracht (South-side) in the new to build North/South Subway line in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The work had to honour Ramses Shaffy (1933-2009), a Dutch actor, musician, chansonnier and cabaret singer who used to live near the station. Having read the biography of Ramses Shaffy, Marjan Laaper decided to map all the influential people throughout his life. Each person is represented with his/her own lifeline. The lifelines highlight the important moments in each individual's life in relationship to Ramses Shaffy. The lines are made of small LED's that light each line separately and together resemble metro lines. When lit jointly a portrait of Ramses Shaffy becomes visible.


The Amsterdam municipal council decided to make a "public art museum" in the new to build Amsterdam North /South metro-line. For station Vijzelgracht a competition was set up to design an artwork for the 45 degree glass wall above the escalators. The artwork had to honour Ramses Shaffy. Marjan Laaper won the competition and was allowed to develop her design.
Laaper previously worked mostly with video projection. She soon realized that for this specific location video was not an option because of its limited durability. She therefore searched for an alternative form, which could meet both her own artistic standards and the (safety) technical standards set by the station environment.
The choice fell on LED lines, placed in specially manufactured containers behind the glass wall. After the installation, all the individual lines were programmed for colour, brightness and the speed with which they light up. A total of 39 sequences have been programmed. These are played randomly, so that the frequent traveller encounters different combinations when using the station repeatedly. Shaffy’s portrait appears several times an hour.

Additional Information

Every day about 40,000 passengers use the Vijzelgracht Station. The station offers tourists, art lovers, and local residents access to the extraordinary architecture and urban design of the canals, the Museumplein, the De Bazel municipal archives, and the galleries on the Lijnbaansgracht. This area reflects the important role of the enterprising and artistic inhabitants of Amsterdam in the city’s rich cultural past and present. It is the builders, architects, artists and performers who add colour to the city and have tangibly contributed to the Amsterdam of today.