Hi! It’s me again. I haven’t been doing anything interesting, so there’s been a lack of drive to post anything. This post, though, is all about the potential to finally get some content for this blog again!
There’s a new exhibit at the Centraal Museum that I’m really excited to see. It’s all about the Domtower and the rich history of what has become a symbol of the city. In fact, Domstad (Dom City) is one of the city’s nicknames. Utreg, as seen in the picture above, comes from the local dialect (don’t forget the G is more of a guttural sound and not that far off the “cht” sound in Utrecht). When I eventually get to see the exhibit, I’m sure I’ll post about it.
What you see in the photo here is some sort of power/who-knows-what box along Nobelstraat that is covered in stickers. Charlie (giving it a sniff in the picture) and I couldn’t help but stop and appreciate the city pride in this batch of stickers, not to mention the international flavour. Too bad part of the sticker on the right is gone, but you can still see the ever-glorious Domtoren.
Speaking of which, the Secrets of Utrecht page on Facebook is doing a contest this week. They’ve posted various pictures people sent in of the Domtoren and the photo with the most likes will win two tickets to the DomUnder exhibit that is literally underneath the Domplein. DomUnder opened a couple of years ago, but when I tried to see it while some friends were visiting, it was fully booked. Since then, I haven’t gotten around to going. I’ve been planning on going soon, and winning the tickets would offer the extra impetus to go, plus I’m more likely to get G to go with me.
So if you don’t mind going to the post with my picture of the Domtoren and “liking” it, I’d be ever so grateful. Plus, it’s something else that I’m sure to write about once I’ve gone. Content! Real content! Two thousand years worth of content, in a sense. Romans! Tempests! And so much more!
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!
Behind this view is the stretch of canal that has already been filled in.
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.
This is another bridge slightly further down (with bonus Charlie).
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 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-Schroëder 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe I’ll manage to see the inside of the house yet!
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 …
… but this white building is also a Rietveld.
This is a Rietveld …
… and this is a Rietveld. He even lived on the upper floor for a while.
These are all Rietveld.
These are also Rietveld:
Even this is Rietveld:
As always, it’s a joy to celebrate the birthday of this tremendously talented artist and native of Utrecht.
Cities 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. Pride 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.
On the bridge by the Stadhuis, looking across the Oudegracht to the Winkel van Sinkel, is a relatively small statue of a girl on a carousel horse. Meisje op draaimolenpaard was created by Dutch artist Pieter d’Hont (1917-1997) in 1986. It turns out that she is just one of the many sculptures that d’Hont created that have found a home here in Utrecht.
There are more than 40 of d’Hont’s works in and around Utrecht, but the three I know best are the Girl on the Carousel Horse, Trijn van Leemput, and of course, the beautiful statue of Anne Frank, which he created in 1960, which stands outside of the Janskerk.
It’s that time of year again. Utrecht is celebrating its 894th year as an official city. On June 2, 1122, Keizer Henrik V officially recognized Utrecht as a city. (Of course, Utrecht’s history goes back much further. The Roman fortifications date back to around 50 CE, and people may have inhabited the area during the Stone Age, going back to 2200 BCE.)
There are usually some festivities each year. I think the ones this year are more about family history. However, throughout the year, you can find a marker along the Oudegracht commemorating the event.
In honor of 894 years as a city, I thought I’d post a few photos of some of my favorite, unique places that make it such a wonderful city.
It should come as no surprise that I have a fondness for old photos of Utrecht and contemporary art inspired by the city. Over the past few years, I’ve been creating my own little collection. I don’t have as much as I would like, but I do have a list of artists and images I hope to add some day. For now, though, I have a small gallery wall that makes me happy.
The large print on the right was one of my first pieces. I’d seen it on Pinterest first, actually, but couldn’t find any info about it at the time (one of the drawbacks of the site). Eventually, though, I found the print itself at one of the local art stores and couldn’t resist. It’s a great collection of Utrecht symbols including lovely Lepelenburg Park, the Willibrord statue, Broodje Mario, the train station, and one of Rietveld’s chairs. What’s not to love?
To the left is an old print of the Paushuiz as it originally looked before the additions. Beneath that is the first print I bought from Ellessi at one of the Christmas markets. I just fell in love with her style. That day, I’d seen the next print to the left, on the top, but hadn’t had enough money with me to get it. The next time she was in town at one of the markets, I went specifically to get it. It’s a view of one of the cafés at the Donkere Gaard, as seen from another café that I frequent from time to time. Beneath that is another old print of the Oudegracht and the old crane that used to stand by the Winkel van Sinkel. Tucked in the corner is one of my own small photos that I have a fondness for.
The small picture on the bottom left is an antique postcard of the Breyerskameren, a view I get daily, as it’s across the canal from the park where we’ve taken our dogs over the years.
And on the top far left is my first print from L-Tuziasm. He’s a local artist I’ve written about previously. I absolutely love his work and hope to purchase one of his paintings some day. Each year, though, he does a limited print of the Domtoren. This was the first one I was able to get. However, I recently added a second one, the most recent one he’s done.
I had requested my copy, but a while later he contacted me to work out a barter. He was putting together a catalogue of some of his work and wanted to include an English translation. I helped him with that in exchange for the print (and a copy of the catalogue). Awesome deal! I might need another print before I can hang it, in order to get things balanced. For now, it’s sitting happily beneath the gallery wall, with one of my own photos and a few odds and ends.