Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Schroder HOUSE writing

Located on the outskirts of Utrecht in 1924, Rietveld designed the Schröder House to take advantage of terrific views from the site by including, for example, a window on the upper floor that opens up the corner of that floor to the exterior. To maximize the impact of its suburban location, Reitveld located the entrance on the side away from the busy town, but included elements on all four sides of the house that link it to the site. With windows that open outward by a steel cable/pulley system, the liberating originality of the building expresses a release from inside to out, as the light simultaneously floods in.

Plastered in three different gray tones and whitewashed with chalk, the exterior walls of the house contain a well-ordered arrangement of openings, simple and without decoration. The foundations and balconies of the house, made of reinforced concrete, reinforce the geometrical and planar appearance of the house from the street. On the interior, the naturally-finished wood floors connect squarely to the walls and to the reed and plaster ceiling without any moldings, as do the doors and the windows, speaking to the streamlined nature and the geometric lines of the building, so characteristic of the short-lived De Stijl movement. Also echoing De Stijl, Gerrit Reitveld adhered to the predominant use of primary colors on planar surfaces as a means for space articulation.

Red, blue, and yellow planes (as well as other colors) appear in the moderately-sized Schröder House, designed for a widow, Mrs. Truus Schröder-Schräder, and her three children. Her six-decade occupation of the two-level house speaks to the success of the design, for which Mrs. Schröder-Schräder provided design criteria: (1) a bed should be able to fit in the room in at least two different positions; (2) each room should have direct water supply and drainage; and (3) each room should have a door that gave access to the outside. Meeting these criteria, Rietveld fashioned a masterpiece of well-conceived spaces supported by strict attention to details, including specification of a detailed paint color scheme suited to the uses and wear patterns on wall and door surfaces.

Some believe Schröder-Schräder participated quite heavily in the design process, indicating a primary goal to distance herself from the ground and position herself closer to light, sun, wind, and rain in the building. In the design they agreed upon, Rietveld dedicated the first floor as the primary living space, with bedrooms for Schroder’s children and herself, along with a communal bathroom. Taking into consideration Schroder’s need for rationality and “elementary” components, Rietveld designed this space as “a single huge space with sitting and sleeping areas,” with the ability to transform depending on the needs of the inhabitants. Local building code officials designated the upper floor as an attic that contained portable partitions. The sliding walls, which opened and closed to create and eliminate spaces, necessitated significant structure for support. Rietveld planned steel girders that builders inserted into flat rock, making them less visible with a layer of plaster. The resulting large space provided the children with a larger open space for daytime play; the sliding partitions allowed for privacy and intimacy at night.

A second goal from the client centered around the blurring of lines between interior and exterior to better connect with the changes in the seasons. To accomplish this last goal, she decided superfluous components of the household experience must be peeled away. By including skylights, Rietveld considered light entering from sides and above to help bring to fruition a seamless experience in and out.

Apart from the workroom wall, no interior wall reaches the ceiling, the upper part of the walls giving way for light to travel more successfully throughout the space. With the additional effect of continuing the space, this design move, blurs the separation of the rooms, echoing the design goal to blur exterior and interior. The ceiling color also enhances the effectiveness of the skylights and ceiling lights by giving the illusion of more open space, and helping to dematerialize the strict geometry set in place by Reitveld.

By contrast, in the very closed-in ground floor, Reitveld designed a working kitchen with a cooker, dishwasher, and washing trough, as well as a space behind for servants and a servant’s bedroom. Located below the sitting/dining area of the floor above, the kitchen connects to the first floor by dumbwaiter. In this arrangement, Reitveld provides easy access to the exterior and cellar from the ground floor. A third large space, initially designated to be a garage, completes the scheme, this lattermost space later adapted by the owner as an additional workspace.

Rietveld’s furniture making background manifests itself in detailing of the house: the inclusion of maneuverable room dividers, window screens, and a table for the children, and many other furniture-like components. Showing great creativity and skill from his furniture career, the Schröder House represents his first building commission.


Color also contributes to the uniqueness of this house. The walls themselves feel like a canvas but each area is painted a certain color for specific reasons. For example, on the door there is an area painted black because it is likely the area that is accessed the most and therefore most likely to be soiled.

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