Two things describe the highlights of Utrecht: Miffy and De Stijl Movement.
The Dutch art movement De Stijl‘s most representative architecture work, Rietveld Schroder House, is located in East Utrecht. Thursday was Ascension day holiday. I brought my bike on the train and took a day trip there.
A house, a machine, a magic box, a delightful 3 dimensional realization of a Mondrian painting–Schroder House is a building that cannot just be seen from the outside. Known for its ingenious conception of movable interior partitions, the Schroder House has to be fully appreciated when you see the unfolding of the space in the interior. Despite my terrible sense of direction on the bike, I was still lucky to catch a 12pm tour after 20 mins late of my originally scheduled tour (nagivate oneself in a new city on the bike is not easy, and why doesn’t the google map app have a bike route option??)
One of the biggest misconception I used to have about this house is the non-functionality of its floating planes and structures. In fact, not a single component is extraneous; each panel and stick all has its own “devoir-être”. A lot of components in the house actually have multiple functions and can be reorganized for different ways of use and different time of the day. For example, the grey square panel on the black wall below is a decorative panel, cover of an alcove, and a window panel that can be disassembled from the wall to cover the glass windows at night.
The most amazing episode of the tour was when everyone land onto the second floor, felt a little bit cramped by the narrowness of the space. Then the guide slowly opened up each wall around the fireplace, the space gradually unfolded, and when he eventually poped up the skylight on top of the staircase by the fireplace, the whole space was lit up–the surrounding merged in, the walls, beams and columns dissolved into the surrounding. The transformation was like a magic show. Everyone was astonished. Silence was the best applause they could give to this great piece of craft.
Bid farewell to the masterpiece. I took a short ride to Utrecht University. The campus is full of interesting architecture by big names. Rem Koolhaas, Neutelings Riedijk, Wiel Arets. My favorite was Wiel Arets’ library.
Got enough of architecture. Time for something cute. So I headed to the Dick Bruna House (a.k.a Miffy House). Interestingly, the house is filled with Japanese visitors.
Miffy is also a product of the dutch De Stijl heritage: the simplicity of forms and the use of primary colors. For the dutch, Miffy is actually not called Miffy but Nijntje (short for “konijntje”, little rabbit). When I told my dutch colleague Natasha that I went to the Miffy House, she was like “What is Miffy??”. Also according to my colleagues, the creator of Miffy, Dick Bruna, is actually a grumpy old man who doesn’t like kids. A children book writer who doesn’t like children–quite paradoxical right?
I guess this photo of him tells a little bit of his character. He looks like an arrogant surgeon cutting the bunny with his scissors!
Here is one image i really like: Miffy viewing Mondrian painting 🙂
Til next time!