Monday, December 10, 2012


Gerrit Rietveld was born in 1888 in the Dutch city of Utrecht. As the son of a carpenter, he was apprenticed by his father at the age of 11 until he was 15. By 1906, he was taking night courses where he learned draftsmanship under the architect P.J.C. Klaarhamer.  This allowed him to work as a draftsman for the jeweller C.J.A. Begeer until 1913. In 1917, Rietveld started his own furniture store with the hopes of one day mass producing his furniture designs. This led to him designing the famous Red and Blue chair in 1917, although it did not have its signature colour until later on. Soon after, he joined with the painters Theo van Doesburg, Piet Mondrian, Vilmos Huszar and architects Robert van’t Hoff and J.J.P. Oud, to form the artistic movement ‘De Stijl’. Following this in 1923 he famously repaints his Red and Blue chair to the colours it so famously has today. 

In 1921 he was commissioned by Truss Schroder to remodel the study in her Bilstraat home. The room was designed after Schroder’s ideals of living, a topic of debate between her and her husband. In 1924, Schroder commissioned Rietveld again to design an entire house for her, this time after the death of her husband. The house was radical for its time, both in its construction and design ideals; it included a great transformable upper floor, representing Schroder’s desire for liberation and openness. Rietveld continueed to work with Schroder in later years. Examples include the Glass Radio Cabinet in 1925, the Hanging Glass Cabinet in 1926 and the Erasmuslaan Houses from 1930 -1934.

  In 1928 Rietveld left the De Stijl movement after the need to persue a more functionalist style of architecture. He joined the Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM) later that year. During this time Rietveld continued to produce furniture, including the Zig-Zag Chair in 1934. 

Vincent van Gogh Museum
For the rest of his life he continued to build his portfolio as a successful architect. In the 1950s he was able to take his personal ideals on social housing into practise by designing in Utrecht and Reeuwijk. He was also given many significant commissions, many including designing pavilions for events such as the Venice Biennial the Brussels World Exposition. At the end of his life, Rietveld was commissioned to design a museum for the work of Vincent van Gogh. He was only able to complete sketches before passing away. The designs were carried out by his partners in the firm he set up in 1961.

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