Key Note: The Rietveld-Schröder House

Nick Evans


De Stijl – Phillosophy and People

Truus Schröder – Life and Character

The Rietveld-Schröder House

Some Questions

The house in question  is in Utrecht, Holland. It is a listed world heritage sight.

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De Stijl  (The Style)

 Originated in Hollands in 1917 after the publication of the De Stijl magazine (more like an academic journal). It was believed that it would be the be all and end all of design. No other style would be necessary. It began in response to WWI, a creation of perfect order through minimalist design.

With the dawn on mass mechanization the armies of the world had the ability to murder one another more ruthlessly than ever. The nature of the war had been not only to cause massive death but destroying utterly the areas in which it was staged. Shelling bombardments reducing ground to a pock marked wasteland, carnage and disarray. De Stijl sought to oppose this.

M.c.Escher 1898-1972

His work is mathematically precise as a result of his response to the chaos and disorder that WWI brought. He retreated into a world of order and became a hallmark of what De Stijl stood for.

De Stijl manifesto was created to express the point about what practitioners believed and what they aspired to achieve. Often they are written in a dogmatic style ‘we believe this, and you should too.’

Extracted quotes

‘The old is connected with the individual. The new is connected with the universal.’

– reduce the opportunity for individuals the act irrationally and lash out at one another-

‘They have eradicated that which blocks pur artistic expression.’

-a style without using forms from nature-

‘Artists of today have been driven by the universality of art.’

-everyone agrees with this-

Wassily Kandinsky 1866-1944

Wassily Kandinsky took to the ideas of De Stijl in th post WWI era, inspiring many with his simplistic geometric re-imagining of the world.

Dancers 1916

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Composition VIII (the cow) 1918

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Bart van der Leck 1876-1958

Bart van der Leck was a prolific artist during the late 19th and early 20th century who was a source of inspiration for Kandinsky’s ‘Composition III’. He went so far as to re-imagine one of his famous pieces in the distinctive De Stijl minimalism.

Piet Mondrian

Pier Mondrian was heavily influenced by Van Gogh. His work becomes more and more abstract as time went on with the below pieces (left to right) red tree -grey tree-flowering apple tree.

Mondrian became entirely  abstract. Reducing image to black and white, straight lines both vertical and horizontal, primary colours and shades of grey.

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“Neo-plasticism is a pure representation of the human mind, art will express itself in an aesthetically purified, that is to say, abstract form.” – Mondrian

Neo-plasticism and de Stijl are much the same.

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld 1888-1964

The red blue chair – an attempt to take a chair and reduce it to its barest components in the spirit of De Stijl. He went on to build the Schröder House.

Truus Schroder Schrader (1889-1985)

Truus Schroder Shrader was the one to commission Rietveld to buld her house. She was a radical. An atheist free thinker and did not get on with her traditionalist husband. She wanted to use the design of her house to reflect and enforce this. She had it designed to be extremely plain and simple as a form of protest against the general opulence of conventional life with her husband.

The House

  • Designed to be built out of new material – concrete. But it wasn’t practical so they made it out of bricks and rendered it to look concrete.
  • Open plan which was contrary to planning permission. The idea being to be truly transparent, you can’t hide things from people with no walls.
  • The ideas of neo-plasticism are quite communistic, Shroder wanted everything to be available. She would watch banned movies at home with her family.
  • Shroder wanted to be as close as possible to nature. Living accommodation of the first floor to be away from the road. Big corner windows to open out to nature.
  • She had a speaking tube and a hatch so people could deliver goods to her without her seeing them. This seems to suggest that for all her ideals, she was not above acting as an elitist.
  • The planning application had to be altered drastically and filled with miss information to guarantee it would be aloud to go ahead as such  modernist concept would not be looked kindly upon.


My Thoughts

As I progress through my first year of study into Graphic Design I’ve come to realise the interlinked nature of all the work and research I have undertaken. De Stijl is a revolutionary art style, not perhaps because it was particularly good or nuanced, but because it was a reaction to circumstances.

De Stijl wasn’t simply a nice or beautiful style, style is subjective. But it was a form of protest against the chaos its practitioners felt surrounded them. It was a product of the times. Without the influence of WWI De Stijl wouldn’t have been particularly noteworthy.

In my Constellation lectures I have been studying fashion trends. Many of these have appeared ridiculous on their face, until you delve deeper and come to understand the message those involved were trying to convey. Design as artworks, clothing and architecture are all tools to convey messages. As renowned designer, Matthew Shannon said “Design isn’t just about making things pretty, anyone can do that.”

I personally don’t think much of De Stijl, its philosophy suggests minimalism, yet the Schroder house, one of its greatest legacies, is a complex angular mess that seems highly impractical as living space. But knowing the context in which is was created. I’ve learned about its value as an idea.


Author: David Rothwell

I am a Graphic Communication student at Cardiff Metropolitan School of Art and Design If you like any of my work, have feedback (good or bad) or would like to get in touch, please do