Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Rietveld-Schröder House, 1924

Rietveld designed a house in 1924 to accommodate the young widow Schröder and her three children. That same year the house was erected on a plot that was then at the boundary of the city of Utrecht.

The house has two storeys beneath a flat roof. The ground floor contains the hall, a small study, a studio/ workshop, a kitchen/ dining room and a servant's room. The upper floor has an open, flexible plan. It can be divided by means of wood-plank sliding partitions into a landing, three bedrooms, a bathroom and a living room. The partitions have hinged sections that function as doors.

View of one of the three facades
Although the house gives the appearance of a modern reinforced-concrete structure, it was in fact built using a combination of modern and relatively traditional materials. In its design the Rietveld- Schröder House defied practically every tradition. The three visible facades are of equal importance and received equal attention in the design. Each has an asymmetrical layout. Both individually and in relation to one another, the facades present a harmonious, rhythmical alternation of open and closed surfaces. Instead of conforming to a single plane, the rectangular elements that make up each facade retreat or project from the implicit plane and transgress its implicit boundaries. Interior and exterior spaces flow smoothly into one another.

Axonometric view of the first floor
The spatial organisation of the house was revolutionary, breaking as it did with the convention of placing each domestic function in a separate, closed room. The spaces on the ground floor are visually connected by high-level windows at the top of the walls. These rooms are grouped around the centrally positioned staircase; apart from the small room next to the front door, they communicate spatially and hence also function for as circulation. The first floor has an open plan, parts of which may be partitioned off by sliding walls. The size of the spaces is in proportional to the time the occupant spends there. Bedrooms may be merged with the living room during the day. Some of the furniture is incorporated into the architecture, but detached pieces of furniture are in any case flexible and mobile.

The open plan of the first floor
The presence of colour inside and outside

The dislocated ¿disjointed? form Rietveld gave the house was an attempt to express what he considered to be the essence of architecture, namely space. Instead of treating the building as a closed box which separates inside from outside, he considered it in relation to, and as a part of, space as a whole. The colours used inside and outside the house are one of its most striking features. Neither wood, masonry nor steel were left bare, and only planes and lines of red, yellow, blue, white, black and grey are visible. In the interior, primary colours also sometimes appear on rectangular surfaces. Rietveld varied the colours according to the size of the room and the level of natural lighting, and also to ¿enhance the overall appearance? emphasize the overall image. The house offers enough of everything, yet never too much.

Planes, colour and furniture
Clara Mosquera Pérez

1 comment:

  1. Clara, each year there is someone who I wish I could write like and this year it is you. You have written a vivid and precise description of one of architecture's most famous houses. It deals excellently with the architectonic aspects of the project and your intentions as a writer are clearly expressed throughout minus a couple of little queries I have highlighted.

    There are a couple of questions raised, if it is not reinforced concrete construction but a combination of traditional and modern then what is this combination? You describe the function of the moving partitions and talk about some furniture being built-in and other pieces being multifunctional. It would be interesting to know about one space in particular and how the screens and furniture affected the use of the space, was it in as radical a way as the building might suggest?

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, well done.