18 Things to See, Do, Taste, and Experience in Utrecht

klmmapI’m always singing the praises of Utrecht and encouraging people to visit this beautiful, historic, and vibrant city, so it only seems right that I make a handy map of some of the places and things visitors should see. So here’s a map of 18 places in Utrecht that you should see, including museums, sculptures, parks, restaurants (which, of course, includes Vino Veritas), and historic points of interest. It is, by no means, a complete listing and hopefully I’ll be able to add on to it as the spirit moves me. Did I leave out one of your favorite must-see spots in Utrecht? Tell me what you think is a must-see.

Thanks to KLM for doing the technical creation of this map for me, while letting me use my own words and photos. They were kind enough to let me focus on Utrecht, instead of Amsterdam, after I pointed out how quick and easy it is to get to Utrecht from Amsterdam. Fly into Schipol Airport with KLM and hop on one of the many trains to Utrecht. You’ll be here in just half an hour!

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!

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

Hint of Things to Come

Modern Shadows
I’ve checked off another Rietveld building from my list. It was such a lovely day, so we took Pippo out and decided to go visit another of Rietveld’s houses that isn’t too far away. Once I have a chance to go through the photos and get them uploaded, I’ll post more about it. Can anyone guess which building it is in the meantime?

Biru the Chow Chow

Biru
The internet is a wonderful thing. A quick Google search and voila! I had the name and artist for this sculpture that stands down at the lower tip of the Utrecht binnenstad (city center), just down the street from the Centraal Museum at the Servaasbrug. The statue is named Biru, after the dog owned by the artist, Joop Hekman. This one is a copy of the original, which is part of a larger grouping in Enschede. The artist himself originally hails from Utrecht and he, perhaps not surprisingly, had contact with Gerrit Rietveld. It was through Rietveld that he was eventually commissioned to create the statue/fountain that stands in front of the Stadsschouwburg (city theater) here in Utrecht! Somehow I’d never found out the name or artist of the fountain, despite seeing it regularly. He has a few other outdoor sculptures here in town, which I’m now curious to go see.

Stijlish Bicycles

De Stijl Fietsen
I haven’t been doing so well with the daily photos the past few days, in part due to other distractions. Yesterday, we (finally) went to the Rietveld Universum exhibit at the Centraal Museum. It was an excellent exhibit, which I shall write more about when I’m feeling a bit more chatty. Today, I just don’t feel like I can write about any of the topics I want to write about and do them justice. So for now, enjoy this colorful photo of the bicycles that are decorated in the colors associated with De Stijl and Rietveld. They’re available for use at the museum to visit other locations. Now I’m considering giving my own bike a bit of a new paint job!

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.

(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.