The Future of Architecture
Since 1889 (Lonon: 2012)
The cabinetmaker Gerrit Rietveld, who had briefly made copies of Frank Lloyd Wright’s furniture for Robert van’t Hoff, was involved with De Stijl’s activities from the beginning. He conceived furniture prototypes composed of basic shapes — wood planes and standard profiles — sliced in ways that visually extended the volume of the objects. His most provocative piece from this period was the Red and Blue Armchair of 1918, which he later explained “was made to the end of showing that a thing of beauty, e.g., a spatial object, could be made of nothing but straight, machined materials.”
Rietveld, who rejected the inhibiting patronage of [Theo] van Doesburg, gave the most convincing interpretation of De Stijl’s longing for a synthesis of the arts with his Schröder house (1924) in Utrecht. Located at the end of a row of banal brick buildings, the house plays with vertical and horizontal planes in three dimensions. Individually, the rooms are very small but flow into each other. Sliding partitions make it possible to modify the floor plans of the two main levels, which are partly lit by a small skylight. The intersection of planes and linear elements and the articulation of joints and railings make the house’s interior spaces as difficult to grasp from the inside as they are from the outside. Walls are no longer the single determining factor of space. Actually very compact, the house was not intended to be a manifesto for an aesthetic reinterpretation of domestic functions but rather, according to Rietveld, to create formal clarity and intensify the experience of space.
Projects by the Vienna-based artist and architect Frederich Kiesler, invited in 1923 to join De Stijl, seem to echo Rietveld’s furniture and to transform it into broader, more inclusive spatial systems: the Leger- und Trägersystem, a flexible and independent hanging system for gallery displays, and the Raumbühne, or space stage, were constructed at the Ausstellung neuer Theatertechnik (Exhibition of New Theater Technology) in Vienna in 1924; while the “City in Space” appeared at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris.