Rotterdam’s Cube Houses

Cube Houses
As mentioned previously, while some friends were visiting last month, we took a trip to Rotterdam. There was only one main goal that day — a post still to come — but while we were there, I really wanted to see the Cube Houses.

The Cube Houses (kubuswoning) were built between 1982 and 1984, although the plans were first presented in 1978. The architect was Piet Blom. The first cube homes were actually built in Helmond, in 1974/75, as a test, and by 1977, a total of 18 were built in Helmond, although there were plans to built many more.

In Rotterdam, 38 cubes were built, along with two “super cubes”. All of the cubes are attached together. Per the Wikipedia description: “Blom tilted the cube of a conventional house 45 degrees, and rested it upon a hexagon-shaped pylon. His design represents a village within a city, where each house represents a tree, and all the houses together, a forest.”
Cube Houses
The cubes are used as residences, while the space in the pylons below is used for commercial purposes. The cubes themselves are divided into three levels, with the first floor serving as an open-plan living room and kitchen, the second floor has two bedrooms and a bathroom, and the top floor is sometimes used as a small garden. The walls and windows are angled at 54.7 degrees.

So many people have been curious to see the inside of the cube homes, that one owner converted one of the cubes into a show cube, to give people a feel for how the space is used residentially. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to see it for myself. Next time!
Cube Houses
Cube Houses
Cube HousesCube HousesCube HousesCube HousesCube Houses
Cube Houses

Modern Rotterdam Centraal

Rotterdam Centraal
While my friends were visiting, we did end up taking a couple of day trips to Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Our visit to Rotterdam was for one specific point of interest, which I’ll post about eventually, once I can whittle down the photos. Oh so many photos!

Rotterdam is a very modern city, due in large part to the fact that much of the city was destroyed by bombs in World War II. As a result, instead of an old city center full of traditional Dutch brick buildings that have been around for a few hundred years, you end up with gleaming glass skyscrapers and a variety of large contemporary buildings. We have more modern buildings just outside the Utrecht city center, but I only see them rarely, so it was a bit of a culture shock in a way. But in a nice way!

Today, I’m just going to share a few photos of the Rotterdam Centraal Station, which was recently renovated. It’s a stunning structure, with sweeping lines and metallic materials that shimmer and shine, especially in the crisp winter afternoon sunlight. The Utrecht train station is undergoing its own renovation right now and I hope ours turns out even half as impressive.
Rotterdam Centraal
Rotterdam Centraal
Rotterdam Centraal
Rotterdam Centraal
Rotterdam Centraal
Rotterdam Centraal
Rotterdam Centraal
Rotterdam Centraal

Pretty Ugly Take Two

NeudeLast week I posted a photo with the top of the Neudeflat rising above — some would saying ruining — the skyline that typically features more traditional Dutch buildings and rooftops.

While out wandering around on Sunday, I couldn’t help but snap this shot of the Neudeflat from another perspective, actually in the square. Once again, it stands out in contrast to the more traditionally attractive building on the left. Interestingly, I had approached the square from a different street than I usually do, which gave me a new perspective on the square. In the photo from that perspective, you can see the red building (once again on the left) face on, rather than from the side. It’s the same red building in my blog’s header image. However, you can also see the square without the Neudeflat. Even with the tangle of bicycles, the Subway restaurant sign, and the large statue of patat/friets/fries in the foreground, there is a certain charm to the scene.

Utrecht’s Little Wooden House

Old and New
I’ve been trying to figure out some way to make a Drie Biggetjes (Three Little Pigs) reference for the title. We’ve got wood and we’ve got brick, so we’re just missing a straw house. I’ve been meaning to check out this wooden structure since I first came across an article about it on December 28, 2011. I’ve kept the tab of the article open since then. Yes, it is late April of the following year. I am an amazing procrastinator, especially if you knew just how close I live to this building. It’s not exactly a long trek to go see it.

This morning, though, I was in a mood, and decided that despite the rain, I was going to go see it. Pippo needed to go out anyway, so off we went.


You see, this wooden structure is actually at the end of the block of one of my favourite buildings in town, the Breyerskameren.That was the main reason I was so curious to see the structure, since I knew what an unexpected location it was. The Breyerskameren were built some time in the 17th century, whereas this wooden building was built just last year. It’s actually an extension of the building next to it, providing extra living space. While it may not “blend”, it’s still an interesting modern design and certainly no more unsightly than the garage space it incorporated, and nicer than the garage space that remains next to it.

It was designed by the local architectural firm, Urbanizer Aannemers & Architecten, and makes use of wood and zinc to create a clean but interesting design. If you go here, you can see photos of the upstairs interior, which is used for extra bedrooms and bathroom. I particularly like the windows and shutters. The downstairs is used as extra living space and was connected to the existing house.

Not only does the Gasthuisstraat have some lovely and interesting buildings, it has a great view of some other well-known Utrecht landmarks, such as the Stadsschouwburg on the left and the Domtoren in the middle distance. I think I might have to start working this area into my walks more often.

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”.


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.


Rietveld-Schröder Huis

Rietveld-Schröder Huis
One of the first things I discovered about Utrecht once I knew we would be moving here, was the fact that it was the location of the famous Rietveld-Schröder House. With all the architectural history I studied at university, I was very familiar with this De Stijl house and I was thrilled to know that I’d have the chance to see it in person. Fast forward a couple of years to this past week, when I decided it was time to finally go see this architectural gem. It is, after all, Rietveldjaar (Rietveld Year), so this morning I finally decided to go see it for myself.

Side View From Back
Built in 1924 by Gerrit Rietveld, an Utrecht architect and designer, the house was built for — and designed with the input of — the owner, Truus Schröder, a widow with modern tastes. The house, which was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, is the only building designed and constructed according to the principles of De Stijl.
Front Detail
For the record, some of the main principles of De Stijl included a focus on pure abstraction and a simplicity of form and color, reducing all things to basic horizontal and vertical lines, squares and rectangles, asymmetrical forms, and primary colors. Certainly, one of the most famous artists of the style is Piet Mondrian, famous for his black-and-white grid paintings with squares and rectangles of red, blue and yellow. Looking at the Rietveld house, it’s as if one of Mondrian’s painting has come to life and moved into a realm of three dimension.

The house itself is a square shape primarily colored in white and grey, with small touches of red, blue and yellow. The lines of the house are straight horizontal and vertical lines, intersecting to create smaller squares and rectangles, while avoiding straight symmetry. The interior of the house, as well, was simple and open, but with movable walls that could change up the layout of the interior space, creating new rooms and flow patterns.
Back View
You can take tours of the house organized by the Centraal Museum, or if you just want to look at the outside — as we did — you can simply wander around admiring the different views and angles. As I moved around to the side and back of the house, I started sneezing repeatedly. I’m obviously allergic to something growing in that area, because it was an immediate reaction! But a little sneezing never stopped me from admiring a beautiful building! If you can’t make it to Utrecht, you can also take an online guided tour of the house.
Side View
It’s a lovely area to walk around, just to the east of Wilhelmina Park, which is a gem unto itself. The street on which the house stands, Prins Hendriklaan, is full of lovely architectural surprises, from the St. Antonius Gasthuis to some of the more modern structures on nearby Gerrit Rietveldhof. The juxtaposition of the Rietveld-Schröder House against the larger, but more traditional style of architecture makes a visit more than worth it.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you a bit more about Rietveld’s chairs.

Big Yellow Birdies and Buildings

Friday I gave you a bit of a challenge to recognize where in Utrecht the big birdy could be found. Since I took the photo, I kind of knew, but to be honest, I was cheating a bit and hoping someone else could give me some more information about the specific location, because it’s more than just birdies. It’s part of a whole building complex.
Willem Arntsz Huis
I knew I’d seen photos of it before in one of the Flickr Utrecht groups, so eventually I did track down some more information by finding some photos other people have taken of the big yellow building. It turns out to be the Willem Arntsz Huis, a mental health institution. The modern yellow building is just part of a larger and long-standing complex, but it’s certainly an eye-catching and interesting one. It might not blend, especially in the museum quarter, but it’s still attractive. The more recent addition of the budgerigars adds a certain whimsy to the intense geometry of the building.
Geel Huis
For the record, it’s on Vrouwjuttenhof, just off Vrouwjuttenstraat, which in turn is off Lange Nieuwstraat.

Location, Location, Location

I’ve been meaning to write about this house for a few weeks now, but the spirit just hasn’t moved me. I think my writing muse is hibernating. I’m not sure she’s awake now, either, but since I’ve been writing up stuff for Trippist today, I figure I’ll just keep going and finally get this piece written so I can close out a few tabs!

The house seen here at dusk last spring (so 9 or 10 p.m.) is located on Kromme Nieuwegracht, just off the Janskerkhof by the Drift canal. It’s a fairly new structure (obviously), having been built in 2002, by the architectural firm Sluijmer en Van Leeuwen. They have a reputation for building modern, eye-catching structures, such as restaurant Divinatio here in Utrecht. The house is currently for sale, and can be yours if you’ve got €629,000 to spare on 150 square meters. It’s got some small rooms, but it does have two bathrooms, which makes me slightly envious. (Although the bathrooms may be as small as ours, so they may not be that enviable.) Ultimately, of course, what you’re paying for is bragging rights and the all-important location.

The house is known as the smallest modern house in Utrecht; not to be confused with the smallest house in Utrecht, which is quite a bit older. On the surface, it does seem quite small. What you see is what you get, in terms of the above ground living area. However, the house has hidden square footage. There’s an underground level that runs under the street, directly over to the canal, with a view onto the canal itself. The house is an interesting mixture of modernism and cave dwelling. Chrome and glass up above and brick down below.

It’s interesting to compare the photos from when the house was first built (and featured on the architect’s website) and the photos from the current real estate website. A few changes along the way; perhaps not quite as chic and sleek as it used to be, at least in terms of decorating. Life invariable intrudes. Even our own modern yellow sofa isn’t quite as sharp as it was when we bought it, but that probably has something to do with the sharpness of our cats’ claws.

Despite the small size of the house, the inclusion of the larger living area does make it seem much more livable, at least for a childless/free couple. The house certainly has a wonderful views from the kitchen and upper deck level: the Domtoren, Janskerk, St. Willibrord, the Drift canal …

And hey, on those nights you don’t feel like cooking, you’re just a few steps away from one of the Irish pubs in town. Fish and chips! I told you it’s all about location.