Gerrit Rietveld Archive
Advisor: Ida van Zijl, Centraal Museum Utrecht
Gerrit Rietveld Archive
Rietveld Schröder Archive of the Centraal Museum Utrecht
The Utrecht furniture designer and architect Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (1888-1964) became a member of De Stijl in 1919. The still uncoloured version of the red blue chair that was later to achieve world fame was published in the group's journal (called simply De Stijl) in September of that year. Rietveld continued to contribute to the journal until it ceased publication in 1932. In his furniture designs, Rietveld lent three-dimensional form to the stylistic principles of the group.
In 1924 he was commissioned by the interior designer Truus Schröder-Schräder to build a house for herself and her three children. The resulting Rietveld Schröderhuis is the only building to have fully incorporated all the architectural concepts of De Stijl.
After completing the Rietveld Schröderhuis, Rietveld decided to explore other directions. He became affiliated with the Congres Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM). His 1927 design for a garage-cum-house was among the first of its kind, making use of a steel framework with standard, pre-fabricated concrete sheet cladding. In his furniture designs too, Rietveld strove towards inexpensive mass production. For many years he experimented with models which could be constructed from a single sheet of material. The most successful design of this type is the `zig-zag' chair, (although for technical reasons the chair was actually produced using four separate boards).
An important recurrent theme in Rietveld's work is the "core" house, in which the central core comprising hallway, kitchen, bathroom, toilet and stairway would be built in the factory. Extra rooms could then be added on site, to form a four, five or six room house.
Many of Rietveld's ideas were never actually put into practice. The greater part of his realized work consists of detached private houses. In the 1950s appreciation of his work grew, partly due to a renewed interest in De Stijl. It was then that he was awarded his first prestigious commissions from the Dutch government. In 1953-54, he built the Dutch Pavilion for the Biennale in Venice. His last design was that for the Vincent van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, which was completed in 1973, nine years after Rietveld's death.
The Rietveld Schröder Archive is an important supplement to Rietveld's physical work. The conserved drawings, photographs, letters and other documents give a clear picture of his ideas concerning mass production, industrialization and public housing, Rietveld's architectural practice was established on the ground floor of the Rietveld Schröderhuis, in the large room on the Pains Hendriklaan side, from 1924 to 1933. He collaborated with Truus Schröder on various projects during this period. Even after his practice moved to Oudegracht 155, he and Truus Schröder; with whom he also had an intimite relationship, continued to work together regularly. Following the death of his wife in 1957, Rietveld lived on in the Schröderhuis for seven years.
The world's largest Rietveld collection
The Rietveld Schröder Archive consists of Truus Schröder's collection of drawings, photographs, letters, documents and literature by and about Gerrit Rietveld. Some 1,900 drawings, 2,250 photographs, 1,800 letters and 330 texts cover the entire period of his life, with the accent on the early period and the construction of the Schröderhuis. A large part of the collection comprises sketches made by Rietveld himself. In 1987, the Rietveld Schröder Archive, the house and its contents, were given into the trusteeship of the Centraal Museum Utrecht. Together, with the museum's own collection, it forms the largest Rietveld collection in the world.
Ida van Zijl, Centraal Museum Utrecht