Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Who is this Rietveld guy?

Gerrit Rietveld was the son of a joiner and began work as an apprentice to his father. He afterwards set up in business as a cabinet-maker. Rietveld designed his famous "Red and Blue Chair" Red and Blue Chair in 1917. In 1918, he started his own furniture factory, and changed the chair's colors after becoming influenced by the "De Stijl" movement, of which he became a member in 1919, the same year in which he became an architect. He designed his first building, the "Rietveld Schröder House", in 1924, in close collaboration with the owner "Truus Schröder-Schräder". Built in Utrecht on the Prins Hendriklaan 50, the house has a conventional ground floor, but is radical on the top floor, lacking fixed walls but instead relying on sliding walls to create and change living spaces. The design seems like a three-dimensional realization of a "Piet Mondrian" painting. The house has been a "UNESCO" "World Heritage Site" since 2000.

Rietveld broke with 'De Stijl' in 1928 and became associated with a more functionalist style of architecture, known as Nieuwe Zakelijkheid The same year he joined the Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne. He designed the "Zig-Zag" chair in 1934 and started the design of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which was finished after his death. He built hundreds of homes, many of them in the city of Utrecht. His work was neglected when rationalism came into vogue, but he later benefited from a revival of the style of the 1920s thirty years later.

His most famous design is probably the Red Blue chair, or the Zig Zag chair. Both chairs are reproduced today, and are available through Cassina.

Red Blue

Zig Zag

Rietveld, sitting in one of his early Red Blue prototypes:

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