That One Chair, That One House

Lego My Chair
Late last year, the Waar in Utrecht photo game got together with the Centraal Museum to do a special Rietveld in Utrecht version of the game. For eight rounds of the game, a detail of one of Rietveld’s buildings in the Utrecht region was posted and players had to guess the building. I tried for most rounds, but didn’t get lucky in having my name picked from the winners until the very last round. The prize for each round was two free tickets to the Rietveld Universum exhibit at the Centraal Museum, along with a gift pack of some sort. Because of the holidays and other distractions, I didn’t end up going until this past Sunday, technically the last day of the exhibit. (The exhibit turned out to be so popular that they extended it for an extra two weeks, now running through 13 February.)

That One Chair, That One House

The exhibit is an interesting and informative display of both Rietveld’s design and architectural works, as well as works from his contemporaries, showing his influence or the general influences of the time. Keeping with the colors of De Stijl (an art movement he was associated with, to one degree or another), the majority of the exhibit is surrounded by light grey walls and Rietveld’s works, specifically, were put against a grey backdrop/platform, while the work of his contemporaries was put against a white backdrop. It’s a simple, yet useful way to exhibit the work of multiple artists, while remaining cohesive and clear. Simple, yet effective! The walls also featured quotes by Rietveld or by his contemporaries about Rietveld, in both Dutch and English. Above is one part of a discussion about the idea of the “Echte Rietveld”, the idea of clients wanting a “real” Rietveld building, even though the reality is that his own style changed somewhat from building to building. I particularly liked the last line, the way it seems to sum up his career into “that one chair and that one house.” Just on the surface, it may seem like an accurate summation: he’s best known for the red and blue chair (pictured above, in Lego form!), and for the Rietveld-Schröder House, which I’ve mentioned before.

Red

The reality is that his work was so much more than just those two items. In fact, as I have learned more about both Rietveld and Utrecht, I’ve been amazed to realize how involved and influential a figure he was. He built numerous buildings or building facades throughout the Netherlands, not just Utrecht. He also designed a variety of fantastic chairs and lamps, and other items of furniture, including one lamp that G and I fell in love with at first sight.
The Lamp
Take a Seat
Along with the chairs and building models (that Rietveld himself made), and the architectural plans and work from other designers and architects, the exhibit included general photos on the backs of some of the exhibits, featuring images of cultural and political highlights of the time period associated with the work Rietveld was doing. There were also short film loops shown, including factory work, shopping at the V&D, and other time-capsule type films. They were fascinating to watch and really did help further the ideas being described through Rietveld’s work.
Toekomst
Another element to the exhibit was the inclusion of little audio pods you could take with you and turn on by holding them next to designated spots throughout the exhibit. You would then hear actual recordings of Rietveld (or a translation if you got the English-language pod) describing some of the ideas and background of certain pieces. Often, they were a bit humorous at times. It was a nice way to add another interactive and informative element to the exhibit, without being tedious and tying you down for any one spot or order.

I really enjoyed the exhibit, and while I didn’t learn a lot of new things — because I’ve done a lot of reading about Rietveld and the other artists — I appreciated getting to see his work in comparison with others and in conjunction with the time periods themselves. Getting an idea of how other artists viewed him was also fascinating. In other words, it’s an excellent exhibit, whether you know a little or a lot about the man. The exhibit will be travelling on to Rome in April. If you can’t see it here in Utrecht, then go see it in Rome! It’s definitely worth seeing and experiencing.

Prize Pack
As for my prize pack, the woman at the ticket counter wasn’t sure what was in it when we first arrived and I gave her the e-mail that said I had won tickets and a prize pack. While we were off looking at the exhibit, she said she would find out and have it waiting for me when we were done. Sure enough, it was waiting for me when we were ready to leave. I got a black tote bag, a mouse pad, a poster, and a coffee mug. I’ve used the mug a lot since then. Funnily enough, a day or two before we went to the exhibit, I ended up getting the exhibit poster that was hanging in the bathroom at the Potdeksel. I had been coveting it, and since the exhibit was ending (or at least the dates on the poster didn’t show the extension), I was able to get the poster that night. Who knew I’d end up getting another copy in my prize pack! If I can find a mailing tube, I may yet give away the extra poster here on my blog.

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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!

Day in the Sun

Sunny Universe 28.365
Look at all that blue! And that’s a photo taken today! That cloudless blue sky couldn’t have come at a better time! Well, it could stick around this weekend so that I can further enjoy it, especially since I’m a bit too tired after a late night out last night to truly get out and appreciate it, but I’ve still enjoyed it today.

The blue banners are for the Rietveld Universum exhibit at the Centraal Museum. Officially, it’s supposed to end this weekend, but I believe it has been extended for two more weeks, so if you’re in Utrecht and haven’t been yet, you should definitely go! I’m planning on going this weekend, either tomorrow or Sunday. I believe the exhibit is moving on to Rome in the spring. Appropriate, since there’s been quite a bit of cross-over and influence between Utrecht and Italy in terms of art over the years. I got to see an exhibit about the Utrecht School of painting and the influence Italian art had on it during one of my last visits to the museum.

Either later today or tomorrow, I’ll post about The Phoenix Foundation concert we went to last night. For now I’ll simply saw that it was absolutely fantastic and I’m so glad I got to see them again.

Winning with Rietveld

Rietveld Facade
Waar in Utrecht, in conjunction with Centraal Museum, has been hosting a Rietveld in Utrecht competition, in which snippets of photos of Rietveld’s buildings in the Utrecht region were posted, and you had to guess which building it was. I entered quite a few (okay, most) of the nine rounds of the competition, but didn’t win until the very last round. I was thrilled to win, because I get free tickets to the Rietveldjaar exhibition, along with some sort of extra goodies. The exhibit is over soon, ending at the end of January, so I’ll be going sometime in the next few weeks.

I’ve been celebrating the Rietveldjaar in my own way, going to look more closely at the various building facades he designed here in the city center. One of them is the one seen here, which is located right on the Oudegracht. It’s the office supply store, Mado, which went through an interior and facade redesign. Particularly of note is the way the window displays are a bit more free-floating and creating an encompassing entrance to the store. Rietveld also designed the lettering for the sign, although it has shrunk at some point over the years. The basic design of the lettering seems to be the same, though. The construction took place in 1961, and if you want to see it for yourself if you visit Utrecht, it’s located at Oudegracht 119.

If you like Rietveld and have an iPhone, I highly recommend the Rietveld Architecture app. It has current and old photos of 200+ of Rietveld’s buildings, along with information about each building and even maps and GPS coordinates to help you find the closest building to your location. It has been an eye-opener for me to realize just how many of his buildings I’ve passed on a regular basis. It also helped me win those last tickets!

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.