Gerrit Rietveld - Wealth of Sobriety
A large new book by photographer Arjan Bronkhorst. The book - with texts by authors Willemijn Zwikstra, Marc van den Eerenbeemt and Ida van Zijl - tells the story about architect Gerrit Rietveld and his relation with his clients. What is the influence of these clients on his designs, and how do people live in a Rietveldhome? In over 500 pages and almost 400 photos a selection of 20 houses and interiors by Gerrit Rietveld are shown extensively.
Photography by Arjan Bronkhorst
Texts by Willemijn Zwikstra, Marc van den Eerenbeemt and Ida van Zijl
Preface by the grandchildren of Gerrit Rietveld
ISBN 978 90 8213 54 66
Hardcover, 24,5x31 cm, 528 pages, 388 photos, Dutch/English
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Colourful tome of over 500 pages - Wallpaper magazine
Von farbenfrohen Fassaden über verschachtelte Schränke - Süddeutsche Zeitung
Wealth of Sobriety
Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964) is one the most renowned Dutch architects ever. His Schröder House from 1924 in Utrecht is world-famous and features on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. Yet little is known about his almost 100 other houses. Most of his houses express the principles of the Nieuwe Bouwen movement: design based on functionality, without unnecessary embellishments.
Rietveld’s houses are characterized by light and space. He succeeded in making modestly sized houses feel spacious. Sobriety was one of Rietveld’s aims in design. In 1968 he said: ‘We could make such progress if people would reject extravagance (…) and would find joy in the wealth of sobriety.’
Only a limited number of clients could deal with this ‘wealth of sobriety’ and had the courage to invite Rietveld to design an avant-garde house for them. His clients were for the most part members of the intellectual class: artists, designers, musicians, doctors, professors. Even though his heart lay in social housing, his body of work consists largely of private villas. Rietveld himself lived rather frugally and ‘enjoyed’ discovering through commissions for private clients ‘how a person should live’.
The photographs in the book show surprisingly intact Rietveld houses. Some interiors have hardly changed in half a century. This is both striking and encouraging. For almost every new owner makes some alterations to a newly acquired house, with the bathroom and kitchen often most at risk. At the same time, we should acknowledge that this book contains only a limited selection of houses that are still in good condition. Of the hundred houses built by Rietveld, by far the majority have been altered. Some are so unrecognizable that one can no longer justifiably refer to them as Rietveld houses.
Rietveld family participated in the book
Wim Rietveld and Martine Eskes, grandchildren of Gerrit Rietveld, write in the Foreword: ‘For us as grandchildren, this is an extremely valuable book. Arjan Bronkhorst’s photos and the stories that clients tell about our grandfather have given us a unique insight into his personality. Some of them are original clients of Rietveld or their children.’
Containing more than 500 pages and almost 400 photographs, the book extensively documents 20 houses by Gerrit Rietveld. To produce the book and document the houses, Bronkhorst worked together with a team of ten people. He also collaborated with the Rietveld family. The design of the book by Dutch design studio Beukers Scholma reflects the ideas of Gerrit Rietveld. The book is entirely bi-lingual in Dutch/English.
About photographer Arjan Bronkhorst
Arjan Bronkhorst (1972) is a Dutch photographer. In 2013 he published the celebrated book Amsterdam Canal Houses (Grachtenhuizen), the first print run of which sold out within a month. The photos in this book show the stunning interiors of Amsterdam’s city palaces, built in the 17th century, Holland’s Golden Age. The book received rave reviews, with the Volkskrant newspaper selecting it as one of the best photography books of the year. The Amsterdam Museum exhibited the photographs. The book has already been reprinted four times. In 2016 Bronkhorst released the bulky volume Kerkinterieurs in Nederland (‘Church interiors of the Netherlands’), for which he photographed 100 Dutch churches for Museum Catharijne Convent and the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency.
About the authors
Authors Willemijn Zwikstra and Marc van den Eerenbeemt plunged into the archives and asked the residents what it’s like to live in a Rietveld house. All residents and owners have been interviewed. Ida van Zijl, one of the leading Rietveld experts, wrote the introduction to the book about the character of Gerrit Rietveld and his relationship with his clients. She writes: ‘It is high time for a new publication: a book that puts the resident first, which is the way Rietveld saw it – a house that is just a setting for life.’
The book was made possible thanks to the Creative Industries Fund NL, the K.F. Hein Fund, the Fentener van Vlissingen Fund and the foundation G.Th. Rietveld.