This week’s theme is reflections, and though the concept can be more esoteric, reflecting on life, the universe, and everything else, I’m sticking with the more literal sense. Mainly because one of the things I love to photograph are reflections of the city in the surrounding windows. It’s a fun way to look at the city from a slightly different perspective.
The sun was shining brightly yesterday and as I walked down Voetiusstraat to take a peek at the Domplein now that the construction tenting is gone, I found myself irresistibly drawn to the reflection of the classic Dutch buildings in the large window. The name on the window made the image look something like opening credits of a film (or an annoying watermark). I also like how the beams in the ceiling draw the eye into the image. Plus, I just love a good arch, especially with a stand-out keystone.
I tend to focus more on the old city center of Utrecht, since that’s where I live, but occasionally I venture outside the binnenstad. Looking for some new scenery, I took a walk last month over to the western side of town and the neighborhood of Lombok, which is just outside the center, next to the train station. I was specifically interested in seeing more of the new mosque that is under construction. I’d seen the minarets rising up into the sky while in the area last summer and was curious to see the full building. (That’s the view from a section of the bicycle parking by the train station, by the way. It’s only a small fraction. I’ll show you more in another post.)The minarets are visible from parts of the main road that runs through the center of town, but the mosque is located further out, past the train station, bicycle parking, and a few overpasses/bike tunnels. After navigating the construction and detours where the old city ring canal is being put back in (after about four decades as a road), we finally made it to the mosque.The Ulu Mosque project began in 2010 and was designed by Önen Architects. It should be finished this year. There are obviously many smaller, traditional buildings in the area, but there are also many other large, modern buildings, such as hotels, office buildings and more, so it’s not necessarily out of place stylistically. In fact, the red brick color was intentionally chosen to refer to the traditional Dutch brick used so extensively throughout the country. The mosque is just one part of an overall renewal of that part of Lombok. (Although not all of the renewal is appreciated or supported, but that’s also a topic for another post.)The mosque was built to serve the Dutch/Turkish population, although it’s open to everyone. One of the stated goals is to encourage conversation and perhaps better understanding. Not such a bad thing to aim for.
The weather has been surprisingly mild for the past week or so. Occasional days of overcast skies and hints of rain, but also days of bright, clear, blue skies. This weekend has had a number of hours of the sunshine and blue skies, so I thought I’d share a few of the snaps I couldn’t resist taking. After all, when you get skies this blue in winter, you don’t ignore them!
Friday was my birthday, and after a lovely evening out for drinks and dinner, we took a quick walk around parts of town before the rain came. Well, mostly before the rain came. I’m incapable of avoiding the Domplein, so of course I headed over to see what kinds of photos I could get. I got lucky with the lighting.
This photo was taken a few weeks ago on a vividly sunny Sunday morning. I loved the slight curve of the street and the mix of older and newer houses of different sizes, colours, and styles. And it’s not a Dutch photo without lots of bikes! Cars are being phased out of the city center more and more, so the few that you see there are some of the few that remain. Although to be honest, I’ve got lots of photos — this one included — that would be so much nicer without the cars in the shot!
This is another Dutch urban scene taken last Saturday. We stopped at De Tafel Van 18 (pictured on the left) to try their cheesecake, since they were offering free samples that day. Very tasty, but I still crave a slice of the strawberry cheesecake that American Baking Company makes. On the plus side, ABC is going to be at the Veldzigt Bourgondia markt on Saturday (not far from Utrecht/Zeist) if you want to try their baked goods.
This is a pretty typical urban photo in the Netherlands. Lots of bikes, as well as awnings and umbrellas so that any shop that sells food can make the most of good weather and let their customers sit outdoors, and even a Chinese fast food place, Wok to Go.
I had various ideas of what to photograph for the theme “Hidden” this week, but after looking through my photos and thinking about what I saw while out on Saturday, I decided to go with the idea of things that are hidden in plain sight. In this case, architectural gems that are easy enough to walk past and miss, unless you look up occasionally. When you consider the height of some of these buildings and the generally narrow streets they stand on, it becomes even harder to notice their beautiful details sometimes.
In both examples for today, I had to take multiple shots and stitch them together to get a full view of the buildings. I was up against the walls and down low, trying to get a whole shot, and realized it just wasn’t going to work.
The first building is one that I couldn’t resist, because it’s such a great example of traditional Dutch architecture, with the stepped rooftop and the wonderfully painted shutters. I’ve taken numerous shots of the individual details over the years, on multiple buildings, but I never tire of spotting them.
The next building really was a bit of a hidden gem, despite being right off the Oudegracht, on Choorstraat, one of the busy shopping streets. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the sights at the street level, that it’s easy to miss the decorative details hiding just out of view on the upper floors. This one is particularly appealing because of the style of fonts used in the text that pops up in various spots.
Additional decorative details and dates (1869-1896)
After a cursory search, I haven’t turned up any specific details about the building’s history. Perhaps someone else knows and will share in the comments.
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.
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”.
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”.
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.