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Rietveld and Nieuwe Zakelijkheid in Architecture

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Chapter Summary

Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964), who trained as a furniture maker and started to practice very early in his life in his father’s furniture workshop at Utrecht, is not particularly known as an architectural theorist. Yet he was awarded with a honorary doctorate at the Technical College of Delft (1964) for his creative powers and original architectural ideas. International historiography bases Rietveld’s reputation mainly on his red-blue chair (1919) and the Schröder house (1924), as icons of De Stijl, but that – mostly post-war – perception is too narrow. Especially after the Great War, during which the Netherlands chose to remain neutral and escape the conflict, there was an intensive exchange between Dutch and international artists and architects of the avant-garde. Rietveld was more involved in these exchanges than has until recently been acknowledged. He also produced many texts, albeit mainly in the post-war decades. Just one quintessential statement is frequently quoted: “The reality that architecture can create is space”. This belonged to his ‘Insight’ (in the international review i 10, 1928), in the context of what he understood by sober [zakelijke] architecture. He would elaborate this theme further in his 1932 essay on ‘New Objectivity’ [Nieuwe Zakelijkheid] in Dutch architecture and elsewhere. This chapter investigates Rietveld’s position in the evolution from zakelijke to Nieuw-Zakelijke architecture in Dutch and international context and in relation to the other arts.



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