Excursions

The Netherlands is so tiny that getting to the other major cities is just a day-trip by train from Amsterdam.

We had to visit the Design Academy in Eindhoven where so many renowned Dutch designers have studied – Marcel Wanders, Hella Jongerieus, Maarten Baas, Jurgen Bey, Toord Boontje, Piet Hein Eek and Richard Hutten to name a few. Clearly they must be doing something right!!

We were warmly welcomed by the chairwoman of the board Anne Mieke Eggenkamp and the director of international programs Yolande von Kessel. We had a great discussion about contemporary design education and the contrasts between the model at CCA and that at DAE. Yolande took us on a tour of the facilities. I was very impressed with the workshop facilities. They are even better than CCA’s with a lot more equipment and room for students to work. There are facilities for metalworking, woodworking, plastic and resin, plaster mold making and screen printing; all in one large space with some divisions where necessary overseen by a team of technicians. Their is even a tiny foundry! The workshops are open from 9am-10pm from Monday through Friday only!! My students at CCA would rebel at such limited access. The design studios seemed much less used or useful than CCA’s which are always packed with students, their work and their energy. DAE’s design studios are used in a very flexible, open manner and as a result aren’t used as a home base or dedicated professional studio by the students. The cafe was great – beer on tap and foosball!!!

We talked about the potential for student and faculty exchange and for cross-institutional projects. I’m hopeful we can grow our collaboration and have a meaningful exchange between CCA and DAE.

DAE workshops

DAE workshops

DEA workshops - metal machining area

DAE workshops - metal machining area

Cafe

Cafe

My next day-trip pilgrimage was to the Rietveld Schroder House in Utrecht. I lecture about this iconic building in my history of furniture course and have always wanted to walk around in it and see its ‘swiss army knife’ features in operation. The house is part of the collection of the Central Museum in Utrecht and the museum provides bicycles for visitors to pedal between the museum and the house – a great way to get a feel for the suburban environment in which the house was built.

Rietveld Schroder House

Rietveld Schroder House

At the time it was built the house was right on the edge of Utrecht. It finished a a street of row houses and beyond it was fields. Now it overlooks a small highway and the suburbs beyond.

The house is well titled as it was a collaboration between Gerrit Rietveld and Truus Schroder. It is unique in Rietveld’s ouvre even though many of its features show up in his other architectural projects. It is clear that Schroder had her own ideas about how the house should function and that her thinking was as instumental in the design as his and that his subsequent work incorporated ideas clarified in collaboration with her.

Its great to walk into the second floor space now and feel how open and airy it is. The interior was built for Mrs. Schroder who was a small woman but it doesn’t feel constricted – unlike most of Frank Lloyd Wright’s interiors for example. All of the interior walls fold away into stub walls and dedicated closets so that almost the entire space can be opened up with windows on three sides. When all of the walls are pulled out and connected the space becomes cosy and private. The transformation is remarkably efficient and straightforward and Truus Schroder lived in and operated the house for 60 years from the day it was finished in 1924 until her death in 1985 (at age 95).

She also raised three children in the tiny house despite the fact that the house was generally abhorred by the neighbors who forbade their children from visiting the house or playing with the Schroder children.

The kitchen downstairs

The kitchen downstairs

The kid's bedrooms upstairs with the walls pulled back

The kid's bedrooms upstairs with the walls pulled back

The lounge area upstairs (Can one lounge in a Rietveld space?)

The lounge area upstairs (Can one lounge in a Rietveld space?)

I loved all of the moveable details especially the central staircase (to the left above) which can completely close up to keep the lounge area cosy and separate the living areas upstairs from the kitchen and office space downstairs.

If the museum ever chooses to de-accession the house I’ll sign up to move in. It is still eminently livable; much more so than its contemporary neighbors.

You can find a zooming panorama of the outside of the house here.

One Comment

  1. Hey Donald- Love to read of your haps! I have fond memories of the Rietveld House myself. I like the contrast between Amsterdam and Utrecht. If you have time, check out Maart Van Schuyndel’s (sp?) house in Utrecht, and look up Natasche Drabbe, Maart’s widow who now runs an organization called Premsela. I also recommend looking up Ene’s ‘cousin’ Anniken Fjesme in Amsterdam. I’m afraid I don’t have contact info handy.. Have fun!

    Reply

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