Schröder House (1925)

Schröderhuis with its flexible interior spatial arrangement, and visual and formal qualities, is a De Stijl Movement manifesto, and it has always been considered one of the icons of the Modern Architecture.

The Schroder House by Gerrit Rietveld in Utrecht, Netherlands.

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Mrs. Schröder

When Mrs. Truss Schröder widowed she decided to move to a new property. She gave to Gerrit Rietveld the commission of  her new house in 1924, in which she wanted to express his vision of how a woman should live in a modern and independent way. She actively participated in the design of the house and is furniture (this building is actually called the Rietvield Schröder House) and lived there for 60 years until her death in 1984.

Gerrit Rietveld with Truus Schröder, for whom he designed his first house

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Rietvield, meanwhile, used the opportunity to use the concepts of the De Stijl or Neoplasticism Movement, which was based on the abstraction of all forms into orthogonal lines and planes, and all the chromatic palette into primary colors, white and black.

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The house is in many ways unique. It is the only building of its type in Rietveld’s output, and it also differs from other significant buildings of the early modern movement, such as the Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier or the Villa Tugendhat by Mies van der Rohe. The difference lies in particular in the treatment of architectural space and in the conception of the functions of the building. Many contemporary architects were deeply influenced by the Schröder house and this influence has endured up to the present.

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De Stjil

Those passing by 50 Prins Hendriklaan road in Utrecht, will definitely feel like they are in front of a three-dimensional version of one of Mondrian’s paintings. They won’t be much mistaken: what they are looking at is Schröder House, designed by the architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld, who together with Piet Mondrian was part of the De Stijl art movement.

Piet Mondrian Composition C (No.III) with Red, Yellow and Blue

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“The Style, or neoplasticism is that artistic form where abstractness, geometry and simplicity triumph”.

An architectural language made of orthogonal planes, which, in turn, form large open-plan spaces or divide them into new rooms, when large sliding panels are shut. Space is “alive”, bathed in natural light which comes from a multitude of windows. The cubic volume of the building is broken, almost dematerialized and reassembled into primary elements such as lines and planes, whose  transparency exposes its interior. Balconies, terraces and metal columns intertwine trying to emphasize the immateriality of the volume. The structure also frees the components of the building, separating the clearly expressing its function.

Rietveld Schroder House / Gerrit Rietveld concept for the second floor

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However, the best interpretation of this overall extravagant structure can be summed up in an object placed at the centre of the home: the Red and Blue Chair, designed a few years earlier by Gerrit Rietveld himself, who in effect was first of all a furniture designer. Its simple silhouette results from assembling different planes together. What’s more, this piece can be viewed as an abstract sculpture complete with transparencies and primary colours combined with black: this design icon epitomizes the overall design of Schröder House.

Rietveld Schroder House, Upper level with the iconic chair designed by Rietveld.

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“… We didn’t avoid older styles because they were ugly, or because we couldn’t reproduce them, but because our own times demanded their own form, I mean, their own manifestation. It was of course extremely difficult to achieve all this in spite of the building regulations and that’s why the interior of the downstairs part of the house is somewhat traditional, I mean with fixed walls. But upstairs we simply called it and ‘attic’ and that’s where we actually made the house we wanted.”

The Rietveld Schröder House constitutes both inside and outside a radical break with all architecture before it. The two-story house is situated at the end of a terrace, but it makes no attempt to relate to its neighbouring buildings . Inside there is no static accumulation of rooms, but a dynamic, changeable open zone. The ground floor can still be termed traditional; ranged around a central staircase are kitchen and three sit/bedrooms.

The Rietveld-Schröder house and its more traditional neighbor.

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The living area upstairs, stated as being an attic to satisfy the fire regulations of the planning authorities, in fact forms a large open zone except for a separate toilet and a bathroom. Rietveld wanted to leave the upper level as it was. Mrs Schröder, however, felt that as living space it should be usable in either form, open or subdivided. This was achieved with a system of sliding and revolving panels. Mrs Schröder used these panels to open up the space of the second floor to allow more of an open area for her and her 3 children, leaving the option still of closing or separating the rooms when desired. When entirely partitioned in, the living level comprises three bedrooms, bathroom and living room. In-between this and the open state is a wide variety of possible permutations, each providing its own spatial experience.

Rietveld Schroder House interior

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The facades are a collage of planes and lines whose components are purposely detached from, and seem to glide past, one another. This enabled the provision of several balconies. Like Rietveld’s Red and Blue Chair, each component has its own form, position and colour. Colours were chosen as to strengthen the plasticity of the facades; surfaces in white and shades of grey, black window and doorframes, and a number of linear elements in primary colours.

Rietveld Schroder House, From outside

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The main structure of the house is of reinforced concrete slabs and steel profiles. Walls are made of brick and plaster; window frames, doors, and floors were made from wood. To preserve the strict design standards about intersecting planes, the windows are hinged so that they are only able to open 90 degrees to the wall.

Rietveld Schroder House Floor Plans

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UNESCO World Heritage

It should come as no surprise that the Rietveld Schröder House has a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2 December 2000. This architectural masterpiece, based on the ideals of De Stijl, is unrivaled both within and outside the oeuvre of the Utrecht architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964).

The entire Rietveld Schröderhuis is a museum. The house was carefully restored, and is now in excellent condition and under regular care of the Centraal Museum of Utrecht. The committee decided to apply criterion i and ii, and said about the house:

Criterion (i): The Rietveld Schröderhuis in Utrecht 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.

Criterion (ii): With its radical approach to design and the use of space, the Rietveld Schröderhuis occupies a seminal position in the development of architecture in the modern age.

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