Lonely Planet Writer

Admire a giant bookcase mural in the Netherlands

World Book Day may be behind us, but the love for books is eternal— and more often than not massive, as a new optical illusion mural in the Dutch city of Utrecht proves.

The Boekenkast has popped up on the side of a Utrecht apartment building. Image courtesy of Jan Is De Man

The mural’s name is Boekenkast and is the work of local artist Jan Is De Man. The optical illusion it creates is that of a massive bookcase opening into the wall of a building, featuring giant books complete to the smallest details.

Jan Is De Man explained to Lonely Planet how he was approached by the residents of the building themselves to create a design that would improve the overall vibe of the neighbourhood. After studying “the shape of the house and the location where [it] stands, suddenly the idea of making a huge bookcase hit me,” Jan said.

The mural was created with public funding by the city specifically meant to improve neighbourhoods. Image courtesy of Jan Is De Man

Jan created the design with the help of a friend by asking people from the neighbourhood about their favourite books, and some of them, in eight different languages, ended up being in the final design, which is really a community effort. “Everybody, every age, every culture, every language was welcome. The only rule I set up to participate in this art project was: no political books and no religious books. Besides that every book title was welcome,” Jan explained.

Boekenkast immediately gained popularity, attracting more and more people. Jan said he’s “overwhelmed” by the good response his work has gotten, and especially by how it seems to bring people together— the neighbourhood community first, and the visitors who come see the mural now.

The mural has strengthened the neighbourhood’s sense of community. Image courtesy of Jan Is De Man

If you’d like to see more of Jan Is De Man’s works, you can check out his website here.