Play Architecture, Let’s Go Dutch

Daily Draw July 14th, 2012

G. Rietveld
Schröder House, Utrecht, 1924

I know I’ve been fairly negative about some of the architects and designs of this period. It becomes interesting to see what stairs or balconies or window configurations can do to such stripped down houses. Well, it becomes interesting with some architects.

First let’s see a photograph of the house. I liked this one because it shows how the house fits with other buildings in the area. It looks a bit like an office building juxtaposed to the street and buildings. What I really like are the different shades of grey in the brick. He hasn’t done the same old white house with black accents that other architects of the time were doing over and over again.

This was done by Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The design is like a Piet Mondrian painting, there are such echoes here of the Di Stijl artists who were compatriots of Rietveld’s. The woman who commissioned it, Truus Schröder, wanted to get rid of walls and heavy partitions so he designed a series of sliding and revolving panels inside so that you could partition rooms if needed, but otherwise have an open space. A clever idea, and she loved the house, but even the architect considered it awkward and uncomfortable to actually live in. He moved into the house 25-odd years later and seemingly regretted his rashness once he had to live with the constraints of this design!

Rietveld is another architect who is better known for being a furniture designer. I do really like the facade of this house, but the inside reminds me of an institution, a nod to the influence of this design on modern schools. For me, it’s cold and metallic looking, even the colour blocks don’t save it for me. However, if you think about the overstuffed furniture and antimacassars of the time, it might have been nice to get some air and light, but you can go too far. That’s the thing about commissions though, you do what the client wants.

Here is a shot of the interior looking out to the garden. The chair featured is a famous design by Rietveld.

This openness, colour, and light reminds me so much of a primary school in the 1960s and 1970s. That influence again: it’s amazing to see it through the years in all kinds of building in various countries.

Would we know Gerrit Rietveld today without this radical design? I don’t think so. He designed dozens of houses but this is the ONE that people remember.


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