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

Shades of Escher

Escheresque
As I mentioned last week, Saturday was Open Monument Day here in Utrecht. We did end up visiting the Academiegebouw over in the Domplein and had a really great experience. It’s a beautiful building and I’ll post more about it this week once I get the photos sorted and uploaded. For now, here’s a photo of one of the staircases.

As I stood there looking down, I couldn’t help but think of the artist M.C. Escher, a Dutch graphic artist known for his mind-bending, maze-like designs. His piece titled Relativity is the work that the staircase reminded me of specifically. It’s not the first time I’ve taken a photo here and had thoughts of Escher. Sometimes the different planes and angles of rooftops and balconies can create some disorienting images.

Dutch Light

Piercing the Clouds
I know I’ve posted other photos here of these fantastic skies of both brilliant sunshine and dark clouds. We get it a lot here — more than I remember seeing it up and down the East Coast of the US — and it always takes my breath away. If I see light like this, I can’t help but reach for my camera so that I can go back and enjoy it any time I want. It’s almost thrilling, as you wonder what direction the weather will take. Fierce storms or lazy sunny days?

Recently, while visiting the Mauritshuis museum in Den Haag, I was thrilled by one of the Vermeer paintings they had on display. It wasn’t the Girl With A Pearl Earring that gave me a frisson of pleasure and recognition; it was his View of Delft.

As soon as I saw those dark clouds hovering over the lighter cityscape, I understood exactly what he was depicting. I’ve seen it so often since moving here! Despite having yet to visit Delft, I still recognized this image so perfectly. The photos don’t do justice to the actual painting and the glow it seems to emit in person.

If you’re visiting the Netherlands, Den Haag is worth a visit, as is the Mauritshuis Museum. Even if you’re not overly interested in art, it’s a small enough collection to be easily manageable. I spent a lot of time looking at individual pieces and going back to certain ones, but even I managed to make my way through the whole museum in just a couple of hours. The current exhibit of Jan Steen’s work is highly enjoyable, and they have restoration experts there in the museum working on a painting during some of the hours of opening, so you can see the work in person. And see for yourself the beauty of Vermeer’s View of Delft. You may well recognize that magnificent glow, as well.

ETA: I was just checking my blog’s stats and noticed that someone got here by looking up the term “wild and woolly weather”. I realized that I have a post by that very name, and sure enough, it’s one of the posts where I discuss just this kind of light!