Rietveld Schröderhuis (Rietveld Schröder House)
Rietveld Schröderhuis (Rietveld Schröder House)
Cultural Netherlands Europe And North America City And Province Of Utrecht

With its radical approach to design and the use of space, the Rietveld is an icon of the Modern Movement in architecture and an outstanding expression of human creative genius in its purity of ideas and concepts as developed by the De Stijl movement. It occupies a seminal position in the development of architecture in the modern age.

It was commissioned by Mrs Truus Schröder-Schräder, designed by the architect Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (1888-1965), and built in 1924. Mrs Schröder lived in the house for some 60 years, first with her children, then in the company of Rietveld, and finally alone. In the early years, until 1932, Rietveld kept a studio in the house;from 1958, after his wife died, he came to live there until his death. During this long period some changes were made in the interior, resulting partly from the needs of the inhabitants, partly from the experimental character of the building itself. The building is now a museum.

The Rietveld Schröder House is the manifesto of the De Stijl, an influential group of artists and architects who took their name from a periodical founded in 1917. The periodical was devoted to modern neo-Plasticism, and it became the most influential voice for the ideals of modern art and architecture in the Netherlands. It invited contributions from the foremost artists of the time.

After the destruction wrought in the First World War, members of the group sought for the universal, as the individual was losing its significance. Abstraction, precision, geometry, striving towards artistic purity and austerity, studying the laws of nature to arrive at what really is, determined the thoughts and creations of De Stijl. The members of the group first expressed their ideas mainly in paintings, then in furniture and architecture. The Schröder House was the first declaration of these ideas on a large scale, thus becoming the architectural manifestation of the group. The range of ideas generated by the group reached Germany, influencing the establishment of the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1919.

The Schröder House was built on the edge of the city of Utrecht close to the countryside, at the end of a 19th-century row of houses. The design and building of the house took place simultaneously. The few existing drawings and the scale model show that the design evolved from a fairly close block to an open transparent composition of evenly matched spaces composed of independent planes. Much of the design was determined on the construction site, as were the colours. The building was conceived as a manifesto from the beginning;Mrs Schröder and Rietveld commissioned a full photographic documentation of the architecture. Their intention was to make sure the new approach to architecture and living were presented to reflect their intended ideas.

In this house the concept of space is no longer elaborated as defined within a cube. As with his early chairs, Rietveld gave a new spatial meaning to the straight lines and rectangular planes of the various architectural and structural elements, slabs, posts and beams, which were composed in a balanced ensemble. At the same time, each element was given autonomy while emphasizing the fluidity and continuity of space. Although the building has obvious artistic value, Rietveld gave much attention to functionality.

The house has two floors, developing around a spiral staircase in the centre. The main structure consists of reinforced concrete slabs and steel profiles. It is painted in basic colours, red, blue, yellow, black and white, as well as shades of grey (often referred to Mondriaan's paintings). Unlike a traditional Dutch house, where rooms are accessible through corridors, this house was conceived by Rietveld in a flexible manner. There is no hierarchical arrangement of rooms in the floor plan. The upper floor is one open space around the staircase. It can be divided into three bedrooms and a sitting room by sliding panels. On the ground floor Rietveld was forced to meet Dutch regulations in order to acquire a building permit. There five rooms are grouped around a small hall. The interrelation of the rooms can be sensed by the fanlights above the doors and by the recessed and staggered inner walls.