Rainbows and Nijntje

Rainbows and Nijntje
Sunday morning, while walking with Charlie, I thought I’d get another shot of the rainbow street crossing over by Vredenburg. It’s always good to see and the colors seem to pop a bit more after the rain.

Unfortunately, I only had my phone’s camera and I had a dog who could smell all the residual smells from the nearby market the day before, not to mention the aromas coming from the open door at the Starbucks within view, so I didn’t manage to get a good shot of the light that signals when to cross the street. Seriously, I had to drag Charlie out of the Starbucks doorway. And that was after having to drag him out of the Bruna doorway the day before. He’s never met a doorway he didn’t like and wasn’t determined to enter.

Anyway, back to the crossing light. It’s one of the famous ones using Nijntje (Miffy) to signal. You can get an idea of it, though. Cutest crossing lights. Ever.
Rainbows and Nijntje

The Return of the Canal

The continued return of the canal
Historically, a canal has ringed the old city center of Utrecht. I posted last year about how a section along the western/northwestern side of town was drained and turned into a highway back in the late 1960s/early ’70s. Fortunately, they never got around to paving in the whole canal. Still, the road was still there when we moved here.

Fortunately, that side of town has been undergoing a massive renovation for eight+ years, though it’s got a ways to go still. Some bits I’m still a bit unsure about, but as things start to come together a little more, it’s all looking a better.

I wrote about how a large section of the canal was recently refilled (late last year/early this year), but it seems I never posted the few pictures I took. Probably because it was a rainy day and I only had my phone’s camera and a dog that didn’t feel like pausing for long to get a decent shot.

This week, I discovered that the section near the newly rebuilt Tivoli Vredenburg music hall (the one with all the circles) has had some updates and the water has been added there, as well. The picture quality remains lousy, because it was another rainy morning and Charlie wasn’t interested in stopping for long, and I still only had my phone. Still, you can see the start of things to come. The picture above is a poster showing what the final plans are and as you can see, the steps leading down to the canal on the left have just gone in. In the photos to follow, you’ll see the large central structure under construction. That area behind it all is part of the Hoog Catharijne shopping mall, which is a nightmare now with so much of it torn down and other bits being built. It was always easy to get lost and it’s even easier now!
The continued return of the canal
The continued return of the canal
Behind this view is the stretch of canal that has already been filled in.
The continued return of the canal
I managed to find the photos I took in January so you can follow the canal a bit.
This is looking toward the bridge where I stood to take today’s pictures. You can see that the large central construction is making progress.
The water returns
This is another bridge slightly further down (with bonus Charlie).
The water returns
And this is the bend in the canal along the northern section. I should go back and see what they’ve done with the dirt areas. Greenery would be nice.
The water returns

Tourists in Utrecht

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One of the great things about Utrecht is that it isn’t overrun with tourists, especially in a city that is relatively small. Not that there is any shortage of things to see and do in Utrecht; it’s all just easier to reach on foot without taking lots of trams, buses, or even having to bike. (And really, if you’re a tourist, think twice about biking in the actual hearts of the big cities. Save it for outside the cities where you’re less likely to cause problems.)

Yet Utrecht does have a few spots where you’re likely to find the most tourists. This bridge over the Oudegracht is probably one of the busiest spots. To the left if the Domtoren and the white building on the corner on the left is one of our two souvenir shops. Plus, during the summer, locals and tourists alike enjoy some ice cream from the ridiculously cute ice cream truck there on the bridge. The bridge is also a great spot to take photos of the Domtoren, the views up and down the Oudegracht, and to debate whether or not to go into the “coffee shop” just out of shot.

The city has been making an effort to increase tourism, and there are pros and cons in both attracting more people and how they’ve gone about it. But so far it’s all still bearable. Having lived in Orlando, New Orleans, and New York, these are the kinds of tourist numbers that are easy to live with on a daily basis.

Modern Stripes in an Old Neighborhood

Old and New
The first time I wandered into Pieterskerkhof, a cul-de-sac-like area next to one of the churches in town, my eye was drawn immediately to this unusually modern, striped building set amid a wealth of traditional Dutch brick homes and buildings. I was dying to know more about it and see what it looked like behind those atypical stripes and smooth forms.

Eventually, I came across a mention of this building, known as the Van Schijndel House. Over the years, the home has occasionally been opened to the public as part of a few special tours, particularly on the annual Architecture Day organized by AORTA. Yet year after year, I’ve managed to miss this day and particularly this tour. This year is no different; it was just shy of two weeks ago.

Since it seems I am never going to see inside with my own eye, I can be grateful that local writer and architecture enthusiast Arjan Den Boer recently wrote an informative article on the house. It is in Dutch, but you can get the gist of a lot of it using Google Translate, if you’re interested. I highly recommend clicking through to the article so that you can see some of the interior photos. It’s a stunning mix of light, space, and unusual angles, not to mention a few of my favorite Utrecht chairs by Rietveld.

To sum up briefly, architect Mart van Schijndel bought the property in 1988. At the time the buildings were being used as a garage and a graphics studio, though much of the entire closed-off neighborhood was in a questionable state of repair, with junkies hanging out in back corners and cars still being parked in the various garages. In the past, many of the buildings had served as coach houses for the more wealthy homes along the Kromme Nieuwegracht canal nearby. (The linked article has a photo of the buildings from 1974.)

Van Schijndel was a post-modern architect, but he appreciated classical architecture and included some light-hearted references to more traditional architecture, including the pediment. In fact, the building is really more modern than postmodern.

The focus seems to be on light and air with glass walls and open spaces, though you almost never look out at the city, only up to the sky. There are two patios to ensure there is always one to be enjoyed, no matter the time of day. There are also no purely white walls, though they may appear white at first glance. All have different tints to make the most of the light they receive throughout the day. Even the ceiling has a tint of red to capture the summer evening atmosphere.

The interior cabinets, doors and other features were just as carefully designed as the overall structure of the building. It’s no surprise that it won the Rietveld Award in 1995. Sadly, Van Schijndel died in 1999, but his wife, Natascha Drabbe, an architecture historian, remained. She has worked to preserve her late husband’s architectural heritage and does organize lectures, tours, publications, and has set up an international network of Iconic Houses, of which the Rietveld-Schro√ęder House is naturally a member.

The house and the architect’s stunning vision will live on. In 1999, the home was named a municipal monument, the youngest such monument in the country. It does seem that there are now tours by appointment on the first Sunday of every month. If you’re interested, you can contact info@vanschijndelhuis.nl. Maybe I’ll manage to see the inside of the house yet!
Mix and Match

 

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This is Rietveld

Gerrit Thomas Reitveld was born on this day, 24 June 1888, here in Utrecht. The son of a joiner, he would go on to become a world-famous architect, designer, and principal player in the development of De Stijl artistic movement.

In celebration of his birthday, I thought I’d share a few (okay, probably a lot of) photos of his work. Although you can find numerous works of his on display at the Centraal Museum here in Utrecht, you can see a wide array of his architectural works here in Utrecht and throughout the country, and you’ll often be surprised when you learn it’s a Rietveld.
This is a Rietveld
Side View
… but this white building is also a Rietveld.
Oudkerkhof
This is a Rietveld
Chauffeur's House 65.365
… and this is a Rietveld. He even lived on the upper floor for a while.
Colourful Rietveld
These are all Rietveld.
Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
Take a Seat
Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
Rietveld Steltman Chair
Lego My Chair
These are also Rietveld:
Warm Glow
Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
Gerrit Rietveld Meubelen
Even this is Rietveld:
Van Gogh Museum

As always, it’s a joy to celebrate the birthday of this tremendously talented artist and native of Utrecht.

Photo Challenge: Curves

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Fifteen hours of solid rain is expected today. Maybe more. This pretty much sums up how I feel today. Topsy, tangled, broken, with flashes of violent red and a tag marking it to be taken away as junk, and curves everywhere waiting to trip one up.

My entry for the weekly photo challenge theme of curves.

Pride and Remembrance

IMG_3613Cities around the world have been remembering those who were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last week. While it is heart-warming to see the outpouring of support and love, it is heartbreaking that atrocities like these continue.

I was born in Orlando and lived there for the first 16 years of my life and while it has been a long time since I lived there, it will always be home. Having something so hateful and violent happen in my hometown makes it that little more personal, though I have LGBT friends who have sadly been the victims of violence on a much smaller but more frequent scale in a variety of cities.

Back in 2012, I wrote about the gay rights memorial here in Utrecht on the Domplein. At that point, gay marriage hadn’t been legalized in the US. In fact, one of the other states I used to live in was trying to make it very specifically illegal. Fortunately, that was something of a last gasp in the fight against marriage equality for all and gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states. Of course, the rights of transgendered people have since become the new battle. One step forward, two steps back is how it sometimes feels.

Yet for all the ugliness, there have certainly been large steps forward overall. IMG_3614Pride parades continue to grow and more people stand in support of equal rights for all. Utrecht has an annual Midzomergracht Festival, in its 20th year, celebrating sexuality and gender diversity. At its start on Friday, it included a remembrance at the memorial in honor of those who died in Orlando.

Early Saturday morning, while Charlie and I were out walking, we ended up at the Domplein. The street sweeping machine was out cleaning up the square, but the flowers, cards, figurines, and candles remained atop the memorial. Many of the candles were still burning. It was a sobering, yet touching display. It is awful that so many innocent lives were taken, but it is heartening that they are being remembered and honored around the world.
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Pure Puppy Love

Charlie
This week’s photo challenge theme is “pure”. It’s pretty much pure love when I look at Charlie. He has his moments, like any pet, but I am so absolutely in love with him. He’s an absolute sweetheart, well behaved, a total goofball, and pure stupid cute! That face tends to get covered in kisses. He usually kisses back.
Charlie
Charlie
Charlie
Charlie