Rietveld Gets the Last Laugh

Rietveld-Schröder Huis [Day 281/365]
This is the Rietveld-Schröder House.

Street Life with Art
This is the viaduct that runs directly next to it. (I always wave when we drive over it.)
photo by Carlien Laarmen
(Photo courtesy of Carlien Laarmen)
This is the viaduct today. It’s a fairly low clearance and it would seem that the driver of the Albert Heijn (grocery store chain) delivery van didn’t judge the heights well. The driver wasn’t hurt, but the van sure took a beating. A peeled-back can of sardines comes to mind.

The building of the viaduct, which ruined the view and the intentional openness of the space, wasn’t exactly appreciated by all (particularly Rietveld himself), but at least they’ve since decorated it to acknowledge Rietveld’s work. But as Caroline on Twitter pointed out, Rietveld is probably laughing in his grave.

Drawing with Light on the Rietveld-Schröder House

The Light-UP Collective is a group of artists here in Utrecht — including L-Tuziasm — who do fascinating things with light and projections. Essentially, they draw with light, using tablets, beamers, and their own in-house software fantastically named Happytron. Large or small, their projects aren’t just limited to the artists of the collective. They often have audience members get involved, as well. Nor is their work limited to Utrecht, they are involved in events all over the country.

However, it seems they did do some work here in Utrecht recently. Specifically, they took a trip to the Rietveld-Schröder House to work their light magic on the famous home. Have a look!

 

Vote for Rietveld

Side View
LEGO is holding a vote for a great architectural icon to be considered for a LEGO build. The Rietveld-Schröder House is one of the buildings up the vote, so I hope you’ll cast your vote for my favourite Dutch architect. Voting is easy and requires no registration. Just go here and vote (it’s the middle building on the second row). It’s up against some much better-known buildings, so it would be nice to see it get some more votes.

Rain and work has kept me indoors and away from the blog, and now it seems I’ve missed my chance to get some better shots of the hodgepodge buildings in Neude that I mentioned last time. The three container buildings were made from materials found around different neighborhoods around the city. They’ve been hosting various activities this week, including DJs, drinks, and snacks. You can read more about Straat Lokaal here (in Dutch, but with photos).

Oh well, back to work!

Rietveld’s Chairs

De Stijl
Gerrit Rietveld didn’t just work as an architect. He was also a designer and created some very famous chairs. One of the most famous is the Rood-Blauw Leunstoel (Red-Blue Chair), which has been getting some extra mileage this year during the Rietveldjaar celebrations.
Blue Blauw

Next to the Rietveld-Schröder House is a highway overpass that was constructed in the 1960s. In 2001, the overpass (or technically the underpass) got a Rietveld-inspired makeover. The whole thing is covered in blue and white tiles and depicts many of Rietveld’s most famous chair designs. The tile project is appropriately titled Sitting in Blue.
Stoelen
I’m quite fond of the zigzag chair as seen above. Many of these chairs are featured in a special video made by Utrecht band C-mon & Kypski. They’ve been working with the Centraal Museum to help promote the Rietveldjaar. They’re also performing a concert at the Tivoli here in town later this month. It’s a catchy song and the video is a fun play of musical chairs. Check it out!

Street Life with Art
For more information about Rietveld and for a view of the many different works he designed, check out the new Rietveld Collection website. It’s in English and Dutch and is a great way to learn more about his work.

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.
Glint

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.

(Half) Year of Rietveld


I studied art history at university and was particularly interested in architecture. Although I tended to be more into rustication from the 1400s, I also enjoyed the more modern work that was done in the early 20th century. One of the buildings that I always found appealing was the Rietveld-Schröder House, built by Gerrit Rietveld for Truus Schröder. It just so happens that the house is here in Utrecht.

Beginning Thursday, Utrecht will be celebrating Rietveldjaar (Rietveld Year), although to be honestly, it only runs through January 2011, so it’s more of a half-year celebration. Still, there will be various events and such going on, including free guided tours of the house this weekend (something I’m tempted to do). Anyone want to go with me? Later in the year, C-Mon & Kypski will be doing a special performance at Tivoli for the celebrations. Three of them can also be seen in the video above. I’m not sure what happened to Kypski, the one I actually have met.

The video shows his famous red-blue chair making the trip from the house to the Utrecht Centraal Museum (which now maintains the house), with stops at the Stadhuis where the mayor (I’m assuming) takes a ride, and also takes a trip through the Griftpark, where it’s visited by one of Rietveld’s other famous chair designs. Rietveld was part of the architecture and design movement known as De Stijl, known for its simplified use of form and color, emphasizing the use of straight lines and rectangular shapes, but not necessarily symmetry. The Rietveld-Schröder House was built completely using the principles of De Stijl.