A few remarks:
Very little has been written in the way of in-depth analysis of the Dutch functionalist architect JJP Oud’s Café de Unie in Rotterdam. The building caused a bit of a stir when it was first unveiled to the public in 1925. Some critics pointed out the utter contempt in which Oud seemed to hold the urban context of the building, especially given his official appointment as the city’s Chief Municipal Architect. Its bright blue and red coloring, unswerving horizontal and vertical lines, as well as its total lack of decoration, contrasted sharply with the gentle curves and ornamentation of the surrounding structures.
Few theoretical texts paid much attention to the building, despite its clear attempt to translate Mondrian’s principles of neoplasticism in painting into an architectural medium. More focus was given to Gerrit Rietveld’s (admittedly brilliant) Schröderhuis, built the year prior, in 1924.
Sigfried Giedion mentioned it in passing in Building in France, Building in Ferroconcrete (1928), as a counterpoint to the arts and crafts tradition represented by the French builder Robert Mallet-Stevens.
Alfred Barr, chief curator and organizer of the MoMA in New York, devoted a couple polite lines to its consideration:
Oud’s Café de Unie façade of 1925, done between more serious designs for Rotterdam civic housing blocks, is a frank and amusing adaptation of such paintings as Mondrian’s Composition of 1920. The lettering on this façade follows de Stijl principles of typographical layout which are classically represented by the cover of the magazine, De Stijl. This asymmetrical arrangement of letters blocked into rectangles was designed by van Doesburg early in 1921.
Despite the measured tone of these remarks, Barr apparently didn’t think much of the café. Continue reading