Monday, September 04, 2006


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Scott Waelde
Theory I
Dr. Carpenter
October 1, 2005

The Life and Work of Gerrit Rietveld

Gerrit Rietveld’s contribution to architecture has been significant to design principals through the years. During his short lifetime, 1888 through 1964, Rietveld revitalized future architect’s philosophies about what architecture is supposed to be. Rietveld was one of the most innovative furniture and architectural designers of the 20th century and was a key member of the Modern Movement. His materials, methods and forms proved to be deeply influential to many of the mid-century masters of design.

Rietveld was born in Utrecht, Netherlands in 1888. Gerrit lived and worked there for the greater part of his life. He grew up learning to make cabinets with his father at the young age of twelve, and then in 1911 he started his own cabinet making business. Rietveld studied architecture, painting anatomy, modeling, drawing while attending night school until 1924, when he became an Architect (Overty). While maintaining his cabinetry business and studying architecture he meet many of the founding founders of the De Stijl movement he would later be apart of. De Stijl translates to “The Style”.
As an architect Rietveld designed in a way that many call “total design”. He would design everything for his client such as the structure, the interior finishes, and the furniture for the specific building. Frank Lloyd Wright is probably the most famous follower of this design theory. Overty says that Rietveld probably abandoned the idea of a professional painter for the profession of architect purely for economical reasons. During the 1920’s Rietveld worked within the community of avant garde artists like El Lissitzky and Piet Mondrian honing his modern design theories. He strived to design prefabricated furniture for the common man. Rietveld wanted anyone to be able to afford his work.
In 1917, the famous red-blue chair was designed and made, changing modern architecture theory across Europe. Its clean lines and vibrant colors stunned the architecture world. The chair was reduced down in form to its essential angles and plains

that were defined by the colors yellow, blue, and red. The colors defined the spatial boundaries of the structure. The red-blue chair got Rietveld recognized in the magazine by Theo van Doesburgand, and slingshot his career by joining the De Stijl movement of art and architecture.
The dematerialism of the De Stijl movement flourished so did Rietveld’s work. He began getting commissioned for more and more furniture designs especially chairs. Rietveld's Zig-Zag Chair is made up of four wooden planes joined with dovetail joints and fixed with brass nuts and bolts through triangular corner blocks of wood. The concept is simple its design, but the forces and moments involved with its construction are complex. It was designed for the Schröder house in Utrech, Holland and is and example of Rietveld's De Stijl modernist design principles. Rietveld also designed a hanging lamp fixture that was made up of four independent light tubes that was intentioned to accent Rietveld’s interiors.
In the 1920’s Rietveld became increasingly interested in the social role that architecture plays in society. He was affiliated in the CIAM (Congres Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne) where he and others designed social housing, prefabrication
methods, and standards (Van Gogh). He had already begun working with pre-fab concrete slabs, which was before its time. Unfortunately, Gerrit was only getting

commissions from private individuals who did not share Rietveld’s ideas on progressive construction methods.
Gerrit Rietveld’s most famous architectural work can be found in Utrech. Built in 1924 for Truus Schröder, the house was built after Truus’ husband died to house her three children. Rietveld kept his studio there from when the doors opened until 1933.
In 1951 Rietveld designed a retrospective exhibit in Amsterdam, Venice, and New York about De Stijl that improved Rietveld’s workflow. In the coming years Rietveld would get increasingly impressive commissions like the Dutch Pavilion for the Venice Biennale, art studios in both Amsterdam and Arnhem, a building for the UNESCO in Paris.
From around 1944, he also taught at a number of universities and designed the Netherlands pavilion for the 1954 Venice Biennale. It was Rietveld's furniture, however, rather than his architecture that was of greatest influence. The geometric formal vocabulary of his red-blue chair, for instance, inspired Marcel Breuer's tubular metal furniture designed at the Bauhaus in the late 1920s.
In 1963 Rietveld could only complete the sketches on the last structure he would ever do, the Van Gogh Museum. The plans were produced by his partners after his death

on June 25th, 1964. The museum opened its doors to the public in 1973(Van Gogh).
One of Rietveld’s earliest influences was his father and the cabinetry business that he ran. There Gerrit learned invaluable training about wood and construction methods. This early influence would prove detrimental to the De Stijl movement by exhibiting Rietveld’s vast furniture collection in De Stijl magazine. You can see on the picture on the first page Rietveld sitting outside the studio that he designed. He wanted to show off his work. He wanted to let the world know that the De Stijl movement was not a fad.

Buffet made in 1919. Years of apprenticing under his father pays off.

Another Huge influence on Rietveld’s design theory started when he joined the De Stijl movement. He joined the movement after his red-blue chair was featured in an article. De Stijl was Dutch arts movement started in Amsterdam in 1917, which meant “The Style. The main founders of the movement were the painters Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg…Rietveld joined later.
The Tenets of De Stijl
· Coloration must be in the primary colors of red, blue and yellow or the "noncolors" of black, gray and white.
· Surfaces must rectangular planes or prisms.
· Aesthetic balance must be achieved and this is done through the use of opposition.
· Compositional elements must be straight lines or rectangular areas.
· Symmetry is to be avoided.

Some of the early work of Frank Lloyd Wright, which had been published in Europe in 1910, influenced Rietveld’s notions about form. His use of warm materials like stone and concrete were used in Rietveld’s designs. The open floor plan idea that Wright took to the next level influenced many of Rietveld’s designs. Also the built-in furniture Wright would build specifically for each project was mimicked in the Schröder house.
Rietveld designed many different chairs during his career but they all seem to me to be relevant to each other. They act like a theoretical timeline of ideas in construction and sculpture.
One of the functions of Rietveld's chairs, with their hard seats and backs, is to focus our senses, to make us alert and aware. Rietveld was not interested in conventional ideas of comfort (the 19th century armchair that relaxes you so much that you spill your coffee or fall asleep over your book). He wished to keep the sitter physically and mentally "toned up."

This design consists of only four rectangular sections. The seat and back have been dovetailed together, and the seat and base reinforced with two triangular wedges. Many people called this type of joint a “Rietveld Joint” because it was so original. The brass nuts and bolts holding these wedges together represent one of the few times in De Stijl design where the hardware became part of the overall decoration. This system of joining demonstrates the complex construction of the piece. The nuts and bolts must pass through each of the panels to produce the necessary strength for the cantilevered structure (central museum). The form of this chair is so simple that it looks like it defies the laws of physics. I like how Rietveld did not paint the chair; he decided to leave the chair in its purest form.

Around 1923, Rietveld introduced two new elements into his furniture design asymmetry and construction in planes. He wanted to create an open, spacious structure in his furniture. The Berlin chair is built up from four broad planks and three smaller slats that are placed at 90 degree angles to one another and form both the frame and the supports of the chair (central museum). Here Rietveld does not highlight the hardware of the chair. He lets the free form planes of the wood take all the credit. I like how the black back wooden plane goes all the way down to the floor, as if it is homage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous hearth designs.

At the end of the 1920s Rietveld experimented with designs in which the seat and back were fashioned from a single curved board, while the front and back legs were replaced by side pieces. The curved board was connected to the side pieces to stabilize the chair. The 'beugel' or stirrup chair is an original version of this construction. In this tubular steel piece, Rietveld utilizes the material’s strength and malleability in making the load-bearing side pieces. Light and strong, they slide easily over the floor (central museum). This chair to me seems cold and too light... It seems that the chair needs more substance more bulkiness so that it would not look so fragile and breakable. Also the armrests placement seems contrived. It seems like an afterthought to add the armrests. I do not like the fact they account for the only horizontal lines in the piece.

In the Red-blue chair, Rietveld takes the armchair back to its most elementary form. He wanted to create a piece of furniture with neither volume nor weight that did not interfere with the space in which it was placed. Rietveld also wanted to design furniture that could be easily machine manufactured so people would not be doing tedious repetitive jobs all day in factories. It appears that the slatted chair only acquired its famous color scheme around 1925. The colors reinforce the chair’s spatial form (central museum). The chair seems like it was once a large upholstered chair that has been stripped down to its bare bones. The similarities with the work of Mondriaan have made the Red-blue chair an icon of De Stijl.

Gerrit Rietveld’s 1919 Buffet shows the principles of construction, the prevailing relationship between line and plane, the qualities of lightness, and the use of the module in construction. Here he wanted to make another piece of furniture that was “simple” enough to be reproduced by machinery. To the left is Rietveld’s sketch of the layout of the buffet.

Although the Schröder house was not Gerrit Rietveld’s most remembered work, it still has great architectural significance. It was placed on the world heritage list of historical buildings in 2000. The house is the only one of its kind to be built completely in the De Stijl style. It is supposedly the first private house to incorporate an open floor plan. Rietveld’s De Stijl 3d interpretation of Mondiran’s paintings have been described as:
"Gerrit Rietveld worked closely in collaboration with the client for this house. More than any other, this is either—in Banham's words—'a cardboard Mondrian' or an enormous piece of furniture masquerading as a house. All windows could only be opened up completely, at right angles to frames, repeating the devices by which the upper floor could be transformed from one single space into a series of smaller ones—the point being that in either positioning of windows or moveable walls, the house retained its neoplastic hypothesis."

This is the plan of the first floor showing the service side of the house. Notice how each subdivision of service kitchen, office, and housemaid have their own individual spaces from the other spaces with a center stairway linking them all together.

Here we see the second floor plan showing the various living spaces. Rietveld used the furniture and the color scheme to differentiate the different sleeping and living spaces. The moveable partitions can make a space more private or inviting by sliding the walls open or closed.
In 1923 Truus Schröder decided to leave Bilsrtaat after her husband died. She moved with her three children to the small town of Ultrecht. She asked Rietveld to design her home with an upstairs living room and to separate public and service spaces. Rietveld wanted a house that moved away from the passive lifestyle of traditional houses (Overty). Rietveld in turn designed a very active living structure that encouraged “conscious living” (Kuper).
Adaptability was the key concept of the design. During the day the walls could be opened up to form one large open space. Also at night the sliding walls could be rolled out to separate the bedrooms or the bathroom for more privacy. Rietveld had once said that “sitting is a verb” about his red-blue char, the Schröder house took this theory and expanded it broader to a lifestyle.

In Conclusion Rietveld’s contribution to modern architecture has felt the ripples of his work all over the world. He has said of his work “that he designed his furniture as if it were sculpture, but often it fell somewhere between function and symbol” (Dunster).


Marijke Kuper, Ida Van Ziji. Gerrit Thomas Rietveld : The Complete Works 1888 1964. ISBN 1-8782-7178-4

Overty, Paul (1991) De Stijl, Thames & Hudson
David Dunster. Key Buildings of the Twentieth Century Volume 1: Houses 1900-1944.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Group Outline for theory 1 class

Mies Van der Rohe and the Bauhaus (Brueuer, Gropius, Albers, and Itten)
Walter Gropius
Intro: Walter Gropius was a celebrated German architect and teacher, founder of the school of design known as the Bauhaus in Germany, and a leading proponent of modern architecture
Early Years
Where he was born and raised
Born May 18, 1883
Berlin, Germany
His education
Son of an architect
Technical Universities in Munich and Berlin
What architects influenced him: Joined the office of Peter Behrens, one of his mentors, as well as Adolph Meyer
Peter Behrens
Adolph Meyer
His architectural achievements
Bauhaus- a school of design where students were taught to use modern and innovative materials and mass-produced fittings, often originally intended for industrial settings, to create original furniture and buildings.
In 1919 he became director of the Bauhaus Weimar.
He designed a new school building and housing for the Bauhaus when it moved to Dessau.
In 1934 Gropius fled Germany for Britain
In 1937 he arrived in the U.S, taking a position at Harvard University.
International Style composition
One of his first decisions was to combine Weimar Art School with the School of Arts and Crafts and rename the new institution the Bauhaus. Bauhaus is taken from the contraction of two German words: Bauen (to build) and Haus (house), and translated means "House of Building."
The Bauhaus embraced new materials, new technology, and sought to create a new aesthetic, unencumbered by historical tradition
Nazi Party
Financial woes and political opposition forced the school to move from Weimar to Dessau in 1925.
In 1934 the German Government granted Gropius's request to work temporarily in London.
Walter and Ise Gropius arrived in the United States in the spring of 1937 after taking a position at Harvard University
Ise later wrote, "Our Bauhaus furniture looked indeed strange in the small rooms of this prim little house of Colonial style."
Ended the 200-year supremacy of the French École des Beaux-Arts.
Among his most important ideas was his belief that all design —whether of a chair, a building, or a city—should be approached in essentially the same way: through a systematic study of the particular needs and problems involved, taking into account modern construction materials and techniques without reference to previous forms or styles.
Founded The Architects' Collaborative (TAC)
Influential Buildings
the Bauhaus, 1919–1925, Dessau, Germany
the Gropius House, 1937, Lincoln, Massachusetts
the Harvard Graduate Center (1949-1950), Cambridge, Massachusetts (Architects Collaborative)
Bauhaus staff, teaching ideas, faculty.
Beginnings at the Bauhaus
1915 – 1916 was teaching privately in order to pursue his own art work.
Where he first began to develop teaching method
His first students sent by his former teacher Adolf Holzel.
Continued to develop his own methods after working and understanding his student’s questions.
Mrs. Alma Mahler-Gropius makes connection
Mrs. Alma was a fan of Itten’s paintings and teachings
Summer of 1919 she introduces Gropius and Itten
Itten invited to come teach after Gropius sees his work
Itten liked the early Bauhaus
classrooms and workshops
premises still empty
New facilities could be added quickly w/o demolition
Basic Course
Itten’s Basic Course for the trial term presented him three task
To liberate the creative and artistic talents of the students
Make the students career choice easier
Introduce the principles of creative composition to the students for their artistic careers
B. Itten conducted exercise periods in which the students
relaxation, breathing and concentration exercises
this would prepare the student intellectually and physically for the
iii. He believed to open creative __expression, ‘relax internal organs’,
sound vibrations
Studies continued through the syllabus of Weimar, 1923
Center – Building Design
Pressure from the government over Itten’s teachings
In 1923 Itten leaves the Bauhaus over what he terms as one of his “analytical lessons”.
Itten was a far out dude even in 1920
held with spiritual discipline
His lifestyle was also a direct conflict to the Nazi ideals.
Josef Albers was a student at the Bauhaus prior to his teaching there
at Bauhaus taught stain glass and etching
designed furniture, household objects and typeface
developed designs in colors
Marcel Breuer student turned teacher
Breuer first entered the Bauhaus as a student in 1921
Breuer taught furniture design and build, an area he had studied
Wassily Chair, 1927
steel tubular frame
most work had been in wood
As a student, Breuer worked on the Sommerfeild Home
Gropius took project to help school
The college provided work for students
Breuer worked on furniture
After the close of the Bauhaus Breuer would again work with Gropius at
Harvard University in 1937.
Breuer’s architectural work includes
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1966.
UNESCO, Paris headquarters 1953
Mies Van der Rohe
Born in Aachen, Germany,1886
A modern architect considered as Chicago’s third great artist
Began his career in his family stone-carving business in Germany. He never received any formal architectural training, but when he was a teenager he worked as a draftsman for several architects
Moving to Berlin, he found work in the offices of architect and furniture designer Bruno Paul and industrial architect Peter Behrens
In 1912, he opened his own practice in Berlin
Became a member of Berlin's cultural elite
In the 1910s and 1920s, Mies developed and pursued the single design approach that would occupy him for the rest of his long career. It was based on advanced structural techniques and Prussian Classicism. He also developed a sympathy for the aesthetic credos of both Russian Constructivism and the Dutch De Stijl group. He borrowed from the post and lintel construction of Karl Friedrich Schinkel for his designs in steel and glass
Early works residential
First independent commission, the Riehl House at age 20
Became a leading figure in the Avant-guard life of Berlin & respected in Europe for his innovative structures
Early in life Rohe began experimenting with steel frames and glass walls
Life at the Bauhaus (the renowned German school of experimental art and design)
1930-named director
When he took over the school 1930, he transformed it into a private school, and would not allow any supporters of the previous Director, Hannes Meyer, to attend
Intention to bring nature, man and architecture together into a higher unity
Mies advocated a "spatial implementation of intellectual decisions", which effectively meant an adoption of his own aesthetics
The most important contribution of the Bauhaus is in the field of furniture design.
The tuition system developed by Mies was a reflection of his personal experience: The first step was the acquisition of a solid knowledge in building techniques. This was followed by studies on building types, and finally by designs in urban planning. Mies reserved the last semesters for his own classes
Closing of the Bauhaus
Germany’s political climate was changing under Nazism
The Nazi Party and other fascist political groups had opposed the Bauhaus throughout the 1920s. They considered it a front for communists, especially because many Russian artists were involved with it. Art and design were increasingly viewed with suspicion. Nazi writers called the Bauhaus "un-German," and criticized its modernist styles
Mies under significant political pressure closed the Bauhaus in 1933 after only three years as director
He built very little in that decade
In 1890 Armour Institute was founded in Chicago
Men like Burnham, Root, Sullivan, Adler, and Jenney were transforming the practice & developing an architectural vocabulary that emphasized structure and function. They founded what is known as the first Chicago School of architecture
Rohe founded the next
1936-director at Armour resigned
The group leader of Chicago’s architectural leaders John Holabird recruited Mies
1937 Mies accepted Armour’s offer and came to Chicago
The school and world were about to be transformed
A task for Rohe was to “rationalize” the architecture curriculum
He insisted on a back-to-basics approach to education: Architecture students must learn to draw first; then gain thorough knowledge of the character and use of the builder's materials; and finally master the fundamental principles of design and construction
1940 Armour Institute & Lewis Institute merged to form Illinois Institute of Technology.
Because Mies had the opportunity to plan the entire campus layout, it has a clear unity and geometrical organization. Buildings are arranged about a central axis and are based on a 24' x 24' x 24' module. A reincarnation of Bauhaus principles, the design is efficient and functional--and anonymous
Mies' buildings are both overbearing and harmonious, and they set a new aesthetic standard for modern architecture
Another building on campus Rohe designed is the Crown Hall Architecture Building.
Crown Hall is a one-story glass box (120' x 220' x 18') with four large steel girders from which the roof is hung; thus no interior supports are necessary. The building is slightly raised on a platform with a grand flight of stairs at the entrance
For twenty years (1938-1958) he was Director of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology
Rohe taught his students at IIT to build first with wood, then stone, and then brick before progressing to concrete and steel. He believed that architects must completely understand their materials before they can design
Rohe was not the first architect to practice simplicity in design, but he carried the ideals of rationalism and minimalism to new levels. His glass-walled Farnsworth House near Chicago stirred controversy and legal battles. His bronze and glass Seagram Building in New York City (designed in collaboration with Philip Johnson) is considered America's first glass skyscraper. And, his philosophy that "less is more" became a guiding principle for architects in the mid-twentieth century
Skyscrapers around the world are modeled after designs by Mies van der Rohe
Some of the nation’s most recognizable skyscrapers are the Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago and the Seagram Building in New York City.
Another building is Barcelona Pavilion
Whether or not you agree with Mies’s assertion that “Less is More”, his contribution to the modern urban landscape cannot be overlooked.
His architecture has been described as expressive of the industrial age and helped define modernist architecture

American influence from the Bauhaus
The move to America
Who, When, Where did they go?
What they contributed
The two different design philosophies
The philosophy of the Bauhaus
Bauhaus- get back to basics that architecture can /should be art.
Well thought out-clean lines
The philosophy of the building in the USA
Cheap/ quick builds
Works by previous teachers from Bauhaus in the U.S.
Gropius- 1937 Harvard- Chair of School of Design
The Gropius House- 1937- Lincoln, Massachusetts
The Harvard Graduate Center- Cambridge, Massachusetts
Marcel Brewer- 1937 Harvard- worked alongside Gropius
Whitney Museum of American Art- 1966- New York
Early Mobile homes- @1942
In response to an anticipated housing shortage, Breuer offered this low-cost, easily transportable structure supported by cantilevers resting on two short piers. It was never put into production.
Josef Albers- 1950 Yale- Chair of Department of Design
In addition to painting, printmaking, and executing murals and architectural commissions, Albers published poetry, articles, and books on art. Thus, as a theoretician and teacher, he was an important influence on generations of young artists.
Colored squares
Work with Light and Glass
Mies van der Rohe- 1937 Illinois Institute of Technology- Directory of Architecture
Seagram Building- 1958- New York
Farnsworth house- 1951- Illinois
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy- 1937- New Bauhaus in Chicago- founder
He focused on abstract art and problems of applied art. His works (pictures, drawings, statuettes, and photographs etc.) were mostly compositions in the style of constructivism.
Emotion art
Lasting impressions on the USA from the Bauhaus
Incorporated steel frame construction into U.S. theory
Differences in modern architecture teachings in college
Curtis, William J. R., Modern Architecture Since 1900, Phaidon Press Inc., New York, New York, Third edition 1996. pp. 183-199, 305-310, 395-398, 183-193.
Giedion, S., Walter Gropius, Max E. Neuenschwander, Switzerland, 1954.
Glancey, Jonathan; The Story of Architecture, Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc., New York, New York, 2000. pp. 172-179.
Hanno-Walter Kruft, A History of Architectural Theory From Vitruvius to the Present, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, New York. 1994. pp. 496-520.
Itten, Johannes, Design and Form, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, New York, 1975, First published 1963.
Pevsner, Niolaus, Pioneers of Modern Design, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1949

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

beltline project

this is my second post we picked out our site on the beltline has alot of potential with the modern buildings around it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

my first entry

this is my first entry on august 25 2005