Utrecht Excursion

A man in a red shirt driving a van A blue parrot sitting on the dash of a van
Started the day at 8am hitchhiking on the A2 from Eindhoven. The second lift I caught at an onramp in ‘s-Hertogenbosch was with this youth councillor driving to Amsterdam in a (1974?) bright yellow Volkswagen van with a blue parrot on the dash. He let me out near Utrecht on what turned out to be a byway under construction. I walked the remaining five kilometres in the middle of four deserted lanes of asphalt.
Picture of Jeff Werner holding a sign that says Utrecht
My hitching sign (hand lettered Gentium Basic Bold). Photo by Grace.
A red, white and green ticket stub from the Centraal Museum Utrecht.
Met up with Ross and Grace, two fellow (and now former) Emily Carr students living and studying in the Hague, and their friend / classmate from Switzerland. We bought tickets for the tour from the Centraal Museum Utrecht, which included admission to the Dick Bruna Huis.
A golden statue of Miffy the bunny A collection of graphic design by Dick Bruna for Havank
A golden statue of Miffy the bunny at the entrance to the main Dick Bruna exhibit, and on the second floor, some of Bruna’s cover designs for the crime novels of Havank.
Dick Bruna poster illustration for Utrecht
More Dick Bruna the Graphic Designer.
A view from inside the colourful Dick Bruna Huis exhibit
Inside a portion of the Dick Portion Huis.

A Snuffy the dog stool. Or is it Boris the bear? Or Boris’ girlfriend, Barbara?

A wall of Miffy books.
Inside the tour bus
The 10 minute bus ride to the Rietveld Schröder House. Ross and Grace in the seats behind.
View of Rietveld Schröder House from across the street
Right on the bicycle path. Not pictured: the freeway overpass just immediately and parallel on the right. Also not pictured: inside the House (no pics allowed).

Plastic booties to keep the dirt out.
Built in 1924, the House is considered the perfect realization of Rietveld’s architectural and design philosophy and that of the movement he belonged to, De Stijl. Like others commented, it’s like being inside a Piet Mondrian painting what with all the horizontal lines and grids and primary colours red, yellow and blue.

And when you keep in mind (and when the tour guide reminds you) that this building is 84 years old then wow, how undated it is. But in other ways I felt it was pretty gimmicky, with an almost Victorian-Modernist mashup fascination with cheap trickery masquerading as sublime efficiency. Specifically I’m referring to the modular aspect of everything in the house that folds, lowers, swings, latches, collapses, slices and dices: every interior wall has a three step procedure to hide itself, every shelf folds up at multiple angles. No curtains were allowed so Mrs. Schröder and kids had to physically remove large boards from the windows and hang them as decorative elements on their walls every morning and then replace them for the ‘night-time’ configuration.
There’s beauty in sacrifice for a cause. There was no claim the house (and Rietveld) didn’t make some demands to its goals. But I couldn’t help feeling some of it could have been more elegant and more integrated.
View up stairwell of Rietveld apartment.
The tour also hopped across the street (and under the highway) to check out the showcase apartment that Rietveld and Schröder built with the same philosophies in mind, just toned down a bit. Some details from one of the suites in the still-occupied building.
Light switch and socket detail.
Key.
Your bus driver.
Our tour bus driver.
A Dutch friend and an old man talking to her.
Oh and while we were ambling around Utrecht after lunch this elderly man approached me and starting speaking Dutch. I directed him to Elise, a Dutch classmate of mine and Utrecht local who had joined us after the tour. The man then proceeded to give us a mini hidden historical tour of this particular area of the city, apparently out of a purely altruistic desire to share some secrets. He even instigated leaving us alone when he felt he’d occupied us enough. Pictured here he explains to Elise the marker on the road, which is actually a tombstone for a 15th century nun and illegitimate daughter of a local priest who, as an act of devotion, was ‘entombed’ alive in a confined brick enclosure and fed through a small slot for I didn’t catch how many years.

Fritz to end the afternoon. Thanks to Elise I was able to catch the train home.
See Ross and Grace’s rather informative entry about this day in Utrecht, with pictures, too.

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