The Chauffeur’s House That Rietveld Built

Chauffeur's House 65.365
While looking through some photo sets the other day, I remembered that I never did post about the Chauffeur’s House that Gerrit Rietveld built here in Utrecht. I went to see it back in March, but never posted more than a teaser. I think I got sidetracked trying to find more information about the building. It’s well-known enough, but harder to find a lot of details. I still haven’t found out all the information I’d like to know, but I might as well post what I do know and include some of the photos I took. I get quite a few visitors to my blog looking for Rietveld buildings, so might as well give them a bit more to ponder.

Red Door
The house, located at Waldeck Pyrmontkade 20, was built between 1927-1928. I’ve yet to find out who commissioned the structure, and I’m still not clear if the building is related to the house on the next street over. What I do know is that the house was a shift in Rietveld’s building style, in that he began focusing on prefabrication and standardized materials and construction. The building took only three weeks to build, as the main skeleton of the building consists of steel I-rods creating an almost De Stijl gridwork. Attached to the steel framework were pre-cast concrete panels speckled with enamel. All of the building components were standard items, purchased off-the-rack, so to speak. The plans and facade were based on a simple 1 x 1 meter module. Rietveld himself described the building as “an experiment in industrialized building”.

Squares

Ground Floor

This idea of standardization is something that appeared throughout much of Rietveld’s work. With his furniture designs, he explored ways to make items better suited for assembly line production. He also used standard materials, but in new ways. During this period, he was also exploring the concept of social housing, a concept that he called “standard dwelling”.

Chauffeur's House

Sun Room

In the end, the Chauffeur’s House developed some structural issues. The house soon became known as “the basket” or “the sieve”. The house as it stands now has been extensively renovated, but with care to maintain the building’s original appearance.

As with the Rietveld-Schröeder House, the Chauffeur’s House sits on an attractive street filled with more traditional structures. In both cases, the structure is somewhat dwarfed by its neighbours, yet stands out in its environment.

Hoek

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9 thoughts on “The Chauffeur’s House That Rietveld Built

  1. I find the notion of a “standard dwelling” rather depressing. I grew up in a socialist block, so it sure is a bit bleak to see only the same standard buildings every day. Not that the semi-detached houses in the suburbs are any less depressing though …

    • I understand what you mean. I’ve seem some buildings that really are soulless structures.The majority, usually. On the other hand, I’ve seen some that are much more attractive and appealing. Sadly, though, those are usually the ones that don’t get built very often, probably because they don’t cram enough people in and actually allow for some livability.

    • I think the prefab/metal/concrete elements definitely make it seem like it would have been built later. It’s certainly an unusual building, especially for the time.

      • Oh, wow! Checked out your post. Just as you say, the Rietveld-Schroder Huis is a 3D Mondrian. A painting that becomes a house, incredible!
        I’m sorry you didn’t go inside to report on what it was like, because the on-line tour page has disappeared. What would it be like to live inside a Mondrian? Or, for that matter, to live inside a Vermeer —
        Your photographs of both houses are absolutely first-rate work.

        • I came across some photos recently of the interior, but now I can’t remember where I saw them. I wish I’d realized then that the online tour wasn’t working anymore. That said, I don’t think it was the most comfortable home to live in. Truus Schröder seemed to take it all quite seriously and lived what she preached, you could say, but it doesn’t seem the softest, most comfy place to live. ;)

          I like to think that I get to live in a Vermeer from time to time with the gorgeous light we get — but with all the modern comforts!

  2. Pingback: Celebrating Rietveld | A Flamingo in Utrecht

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