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"Looking for Stijl" Category


Purpose


Thursday, October 26, 2017

266px-J.J.P._Oud 260px-Landing_of_De_Vonk_by_architect_Oud Cafe_De_Unie

Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud is a dutch de stijl architect. In his early career he was mainly inspired by Berlage. Buildings he designed were really geometric, he used long staright walls, rounded corners, horizontal and vertical lines. And these elements would cover an open space inside. He was interested in using unexpensive building materials and on the buildings he didnt want a trace of human hand. He was also interested in how the light comes in the building, how clean and fresh does the building look and feel. In his sketches you can see how he also sketches the entrance of the light into the space. Between 1918-1933 he was Municipal Housing Architect of Rotterdam. During these times the country was getting a lot of labor so he worked on mass housing for the coming workers. He didn’t want to use the traditional way of using bricks. Other two examples of his known works would be: Vakantiehuis De Vonk, it was made for working women so they could spend their weekends outdoors and be involved with the countryside. What makes this building special are the tiles on the main hall. They were painted by Theo van Doesburg to include painting in architecture and they thought this would make people interested in art when they were staying there. The other example would be Cafe de Unie. It was not really liked when it was built. Outside of the building looks like a Mondriaan painting. With the use of these primary colors and illuminated signs they wanted to attract attention. The building was destroyed during the 1940 bombardment and was reconstructed later.

What I want to investigate further is the situation in Vakantiehuis De Vonk. Can we really make people interested in something by just putting it ”there”?  Or did the answer to this question change in time? In one of Oud’s projects (Vakantiehuis De Vonk), they painted the floor tiles on different colors and it was designed by Theo van Doesburg. They wanted people who go into the building get into art by experiencing it. When I think about it, the purpose of commercials is the make the consumer interested in the product. Does this really work now in 2017 ? We have internet and social media. We are living in times that is extremely easy to reach people. So you would think that it would work amazingly because when you think about it a lot more people actually see the commercials now therefore the sales should go up right? Well, online commercials are everywhere but people are not seeing it. A personal example would be: when i am just scrolling through social media, I don’t stop scrolling until I see something that immediately grabs my attention. Let’s say an AD grabbed my attention, as soon as i realise that it is an AD I would just go back to my endless scrolling to the depths of the internet. More general example would be Adobe’s researches about ADBlocking. In the graphs they made as a result you can see that adblock users keep growing daily and in January 2015 monthly active users were 181 million. So in conclusion I would say in 2017 ads are definetely seen by a large group but it doesn’t interest people. The reason i am giving an example from online advertising is according to the research done by Nielsen(2013-2015) shows us that the most effective way of advertising is online. By these information I could say that these days placing something somewhere to make people interested in it doesn’t work really well.

So in the making of Vakantiehuis De Vonk, the artwork became a commercial and art became the product. But this is not the only way to use art. I think we can all agree on that in contemporary art doesn’t carry this purpose of making people interested in it but also we can’t deny that artists, sometimes in groups and sometimes indiviudually give art their own purpose. So I can say that art is subjective. Therefore, using art for a purpose would only work if the audience had the same ideas in art with the artist.

PRPS

Photography: A Reproduction


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Photography: A Reproduction
Johannes Schwartz’ exhibition Blue, Turning Grey Over You at the Annet Gelink Gallery [x] shows photographs of photographs that Piet Mondrian took from his paintings. In other words, Schwartz’ works are ‘reproductions’ of reproductions. Nevertheless, one should note that Schwartz’ intention goed beyond documenting or copying art works. While Mondrian argues that photography is mainly suitable to imitate art works rather than to be an art form itself, Schwartz proves otherwise by depicting Mondrian’s reproductions, address book and records in photographs exhibited as autonomous art works. Hereby, Schwartz positions himself in a greater debate in the history of photography. The tension between photography as document and personal expressiveness has been the core discussion concerning the status of photography as art.

Nowadays it seems self-evident that photography is seen as art form. This, however, has not always been the case. There was already disagreement on the artistic potential of photography in the 19th century, when the medium was introduced. Nevertheless, it had by far the same recognition as painting. Moreover, photography was often considered a mechanical – rather than an artistic – practice. A century later the distinction between technology and art was put in question. The Bauhaus artists had a multi-disciplinary approach and aimed to integrate design, art and modern daily life. This questioned the position of photography and lead, particularly in Germany, to a highly topical debate during the 1920s. The Bauhaus artists considered photography, as product of modernity, suitable to depict this Modern Era. This was also stressed out in the article “Painting and Photography” (1927) by Ernst Kállai, editor of the Bauhaus Journal i10. Even though Kállai admitted that painting was a higher form of art, the Bauhaus’ approach on photography was still quiet controversial at the time. The Frankfurter School theorist, Walter Benjamin, claimed that art works have a certain authenticity or aura which photographs –whether a mechanical reproduction of a landscape or an artwork – do not have (1935). Mondrian wrote a few lines about photography that comment on and contradict Kállai’s article (1927)[x]. He considers the medium, as Benjamin, a mechanical practice suitable to imitate or reproduce objectivity. He did not value the creative or artistic potential of photography. Mondrian made reproductions for albums that enable him to show and explain his paintings. After that it was no longer necessary to explain the development of his work in his studio. This allowed him to show only his latest painting. Hence, photography was not used as an artistic expression, but as a tool to establish himself as an artist. Interesting is to add that there were only black and white photography at the time, which forced Mondrian to describe the colour composition of his work in the albums as well.

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Johannes Schwartz PM #2, 2017

 

Johannes Schwartz saw Mondrian’s albums along with other personal belongings at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RDK), when he was asked to document them for a magazine. This gave him the opportunity to see objects that are normally are not publicly accessible. Schwartz was particularly fascinated by the albums, which demonstrated the motivation and working drive of the artist. Mondrian took great effort in making high quality reproductions and describing the paintings carefully. The limitations of the medium at the time – e.g. being in black and white – did not seem to bother him and instead he found ways to overcome them. Schwartz got interested in creating a possibility in which more people would see Mondrian’s work attitude. However, his goal goes beyond documenting the objects for an exhibition. Instead, he plays with the (re)presentation of them. Mondrian’s reproductions, for instance, are photographed in colour and put on a wooden shelf with a blue-grey wall in the background. In one work different ‘reproductions’ are grouped in one line, noticeably build up from different pictures photoshopped next to each other. All these characteristics remind the viewer that the photographer took different decisions and actions in the making process. The latter raises questions that refer back to the central debate. It also doubts Mondrian’s position [x].. Do reproductions have the capacity to imitate or reproduce objectivity? Can photography in itself be objective or do the choices of the photographer inevitably evoke subjectivity? Does the intention of the photographer decide whether it is a document or an artwork? These questions, from the many one could ask, put the earlier mentioned discussion in a contemporary context. The visual aspects of the photographs add a conceptual level to the works, which differentiates them from reproductions that are merely meant as a copy. His work aims to intellectually activate the viewer and invite him/her to make associations, reflect and take a position in the debate. One can also go a step further and state that the works themselves provide an attitude towards photography. The exhibition shows that throughout the centuries, photography has developed to be part of the visual arts and that a conceptual level allows reproductions of reproductions to be autonomous works of art.

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A video reproduction of reproductions of reproductions
When visiting the exhibition, I started to think about the role of photography in general and the fact that the medium has never been as accessible as it is today. Everyone can take pictures and videos with their phones and share them globally. This consequently raises new questions about the relation between photography and art. In this train of thought, I filmed my gallery visit on my Iphone. The voice-over is a fragmented reproduction of a conversation I had with Johannes Schwartz about this exhibition.

Chair-making for Dummies


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

“A seperate seat for one person, typically with a back and four legs.”

The result of google-searching what is a chair?

Donald Judd started making furniture when he moved with his family to a remote town in Texas in 1973. No desirable furniture available in his surrounding area, he got to work himself and began making furniture with the only material at hand, lumberyard-cut pine.

Judd thought a chair had to show the function of the object, as well as the image. To sit on it, and a chair. Separating his art from his furniture, he decided he wanted to make “well functioning” furniture, not an “artist’s furniture”. Now, in his opinion a “well functioning” was determined by the following;

“The art of a chair is not its resemblance to art, but partly its reasonableness,                                       usefulness and scale as a chair.”                                       (Donald Judd from “It’s Hard to Find a Good Lamp” 1993)

Besides that he pointed out that if one was to embarke on both the path of furniture making as well as art, that there will be consistent similarities in the interests in form.

I had the choice between either doing theoretical research or practical, research for the essay. For the sake of my own enjoyment and an end result where I  have heart for, I choose the latter. Making the chair and experiencing it Now, here my task started. Figuring out how to make a “well functioning” chair, and keeping in check with Judd’s minimalistic aesthetic. Truth be told I was quite excited!

For more information on Judd and his furniture I have the following link;

 

 (please click the yellow square to click the link)

Chairs man

Step one, gather the materials. 

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For me I wanted to put myself a bit in Judd’s situation. To gather from the materials to my disposal. I could’ve chosen to let wood be custom cut for me, but I liked the idea of having to find pieces among the leftovers a lot better. And so I found the pieces of wood that could be used as the parts of my chair.

Step two, measuring. 

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With this I had to keep in mind design as well as function. The width of seating had to be comfortable, but not look off-balance compared to the rest of the chair. The height of the seating was the same case. As for the back of the chair, I decided to make it about shoulder height when sitting down. This was because I have the tendency to hunch my shoulders too much while working on projects. And honestly, if I was making a chair anyways, why not make one that would function for more than just another chair in the classroom? Why not make one that would help with my posture as well? Same thing for the smaller compartment under the seating, great for storing materials in case my desk gets too crowded.

Step three, cutting. 

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Please be careful when cutting the wood! It is easy to forget to adjust the size, and if you cut one piece entirely or even slightly off, you’re a long way from home. Precision is essential with making a chair as simplistic as the ones by Judd. One centimeter off, and the whole work falls apart. Sometimes even literally.

Step four, figuring out how Judd even kept his works together. 

This was easily the hardest part. I love the form of Judd’s chairs, but it was quite complicated to figure out how the wooden chairs remained chairs without any visible nails or use of dovetail joint. I was lucky to receive some help by one of the employees of the wood-workshop. She explained to me that I could make little slits within the wood, to then make one on the other piece of wood which would touch it at the same point. A small oval piece of wood would then be put between the two slits and keep them connected. Kind of like a puzzle piece!

Step five, actually putting it together. 

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For someone that has the concentration level of a fruitfly, this task was a challenge. You have to make sure that all the slits connect perfectly, align perfectly, and that the width between the slits and where the wood is supposed the end, are the same on both pieces.

Then, you try it out. Put it together to make sure that every puzzle piece connects. Ensuring you did it correctly through and through.

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Step six, keep it together.

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Besides the slits and wooden pieces, you should add glue to keep the chair a chair. Keep pressure on the points where the joints need to be as tight possible, so it can carry the weight of the average person. Preferably a bit more than that.

Let it dry overnight.

Step seven, place it within school. 

The reason I did this, was because the assignment I had gotten was to explore the similarities within Judds furniture and de Stijl. And as Judd had said, if one makes both art, furniture and architecture at the same time, there will be consistent similarities of form within all of these. And Gerrit Rietveld, influential artist within de Stijl, happened to do two of these.  My chair standing there, I saw their shapes came together quite nicely. The same geometrical forms, same practicality.

Now if you are interested in finding out more about the combination of these two things, de Stijl and Judd, please click the yellow square!

 

 chairio

Step eight, enjoy your work

Sit on it, drag it around to sit on it in different places, store things within the compartment and revel in the fact you actually made something you can use.

I found a few other enjoyable examples of chairs made from things in your surrounding area.

 

(Please click the yellow square again, it will lead you to a fun and educational video)

What i know about social design and how i have engaged with social design


Monday, October 23, 2017

What i know about social design and how i have engaged with social design

What is social design to me?

Social design is about creating with or for a community. It’s about creating design through dialogue where ideas, beliefs and rituals should be discussed in order to design a solution or an object that benefits or helps a group of people. The designer should be able to connect with a community in a way, where the designer fully understand the community’s request(s) and need for change or a smarter solution. Social design is about humans, not the society.

From my personal experience, i have learned about the importance of social design, from working at an institution for disabled children, throughout and after my years in highschool. The residents at the institution called Tjørringhus are all multi-handicapped children between 4 and 18 years old. They need constant support, including personal hygiene, feeding, getting in clothes, brushing teeth etc. In order to help the child through its daily chores, as easily as possible, my coworkers and i, where deeply dependent on the resources and tool remedy’s we had. The same were the residents! Those resources were specially designed, to make daily life as convenient for both staff and residents, such as the childrens adjustable wheelchairs and lifts to move the child around and special designed cars, where wheelchairs would fit in perfectly, and could be secured safely. All of these indispensable resources have been made in close cooperation with designers, who have visited the institution, met the residents, experienced their daily needs, talked with the childrens parents, had talks and discussions with the staff at Tjørringhus. From those talks and experiences, the designers have been able to make the best possible solutions for both the residents and the staff working for and with the children.

The institution were at one point, over a period of one year where i was working full-time, involved with a danish design school, who made a project about social design and designing social relations. The aim of the project was to give the residents at Tjørringhus more and better relationships with the surrounding community. Neighbors, family, friends, and volunteers should be involved in the project and inspired and well dressed to take co-responsibility for their fellow citizens, at Tjørringhus. So in that way it was not only the public represented by the employees on the institution, who should be responsible for the citizens’ social relations.

The result of the project, was a great success. In fact the residents at Tjørringhus, now got more relationships, in the form of volunteers, taking the residents to activities and arranging activities in the home. In this way the institution has become a part of society and society a part of the institution. The more volunteers have also given the employees of Tjørringhus more time, which they can use on residents who need extra support. I felt it myself, while working on Tjørringhus. It was a huge opportunity for us, as employees to have more time with an individual child and get to give the child caring attention while doing activities.

 

The methodes that were used by the designers, that i understood, and the other staff got to know, while the project was ongoing was;

-       Empathize, where the designers create understanding for the user.

-       Define where the designer formulate insights and find an understanding of recognized and unrecognized needs and longings.

-       Idea where the designer draw up as many ideas and suggestions as possible in several different directions.

-       Prototype, where the designer build a model or kind of tale of the change they want to introduce.

-       Test where the model is put into a context and evaluated by the users.

 

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As part of the process, the designers completed field studies at Tjørringhus. Through a month, citizens and employees attended the home to gain knowledge and gain an understanding of their respective situations, challenges, wishes and needs. Based on field studies, the designers developed a number of so-called “social prototypes”; ideas for social relations with the residents and ways to create them. The prototypes were tested on stakeholders and further developed into the unifying concept: “Guest Bud” – How do you receive guests and how will you be a good guest at Tjørringhus?

With the “Guest Bud” as a starting point, the designers developed three solutions:

-       A communication tool for Ipad for the children on Tjørringhus. The tool allows the residents to present and tell about themselves. The residens at Tjørringhus have no language and therefore can not present themselves in a “normal” way. The ipad can always be used by the resident and they can then start an interaction – and a relationship. A tool we ended up having great use of at Tjørringhus. It gave the children the opportunity to explain themselves in a way, that haven’t been possible for the children before.

 

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-       An activity tool for employees and guests at Tjørringhus, which shows what activities and forms of interaction that are meaningful for relatives and outsiders to involve the resident. The child’s handicaps require that you as a guest find ways to be with the them in addition to the usual ‘everyday talk’. Lots of volunteers who, as mentioned, involved the residents in activities in society and involve society in activities with the children at Tjørringhus. The designers found several ways to do this, but what we ended up using the most was a simple solution with ideas for activities in a big box, that were special made, in colaboration with the designers, and some pedagogues working at Tjørringhus.

 

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Another new social design project, that my previous head of department at Tjørringhus made me aware of is `Medicine dosed with design` – a collaboration between TEKO Design School and the municipality of Ikast-Brande that will reduce medication errors.

A very large proportion of the unintended incidents, which are reported to the municipality of Ikast-Brande, are about emergency medicine. It is especially in the municipality’s nursing home, in home care and on housing that the problem arises. In the nursing home, ‘medication not given’ represents 63% of all reported events. In home care, it is 52%, and at residential facilities it is 46%.

This is why the special unit for Quality and Innovation under the Elderly and Disability Administration in Ikast-Brande Municipality has entered into a partnership agreement with TEKO Design School. The primary aim of the agreement is to get the designers’ help to find a new solution that can reduce the number of errors in the delivery of medicines in the elderly sector.

The partnership means that a group of employees at selected care centers conducts a design process under the leadership of TEKO’s professional designers and developers.

The key to the designer is to identify and solve challenges and problems in a way that makes sense for the employees, residents and any relatives who are included in the handling of medicine. This means that users can connect with the solutions – emotionally, functionally, socially and culturally.

Designers solutions seem intuitively attractive because they are created in a tension between the creativity and vision of the designer, on the one hand, and the users’ own experiences and ideas. It creates a balance between innovation – the surprising – and the users’ need for recognition. This avoids “waste” in the form of products that never reach the market or public service, which neither users nor staff find attractive and therefore easily turn their backs.

There’s still yet no concrete solutions, for what this social design project will lead to, but it does show the constant need for specialized designers, who can design responsible solutions for societies.

The experience of being a part of the project at Tjørringhus, or at least be able to stand on the sideline, observing how the project evolved and included both residents, staff at Tjørringhus and volunteers showed me the importance of social design and designing for and with people to improve their life quality.

 

Building Blocks: De Stijl and Typeface design – Personal Impressions


Friday, October 20, 2017

video-1508250602   Spending an afternoon using an old letterpress I experienced what it would have been like to create printed text in the early 20th century until offset printing took over almost completely. This was a nice way to immerse myself into the subject of De Stijl and its relation to type design.

The Stijl movement which was founded in 1917 consisted of artists and architects who started building a new world, presumably as a result of the war that was just coming to an end. They literally started constructing their ideal world out of furniture, buildings and artwork. It seems to me that they tried to clear up the mess they saw around them by creating perfect straight lines and rigid blocks. Using primary colours, black and white, strict rules and useful functions they began portraying a ‘perfect’ world. In a way, they brought everything back to the basics while simultaneously making basic things more complex.
When researching De Stijl’s typeface design the first thing that comes to mind is the magazine published by Theo van Doesburg. The front cover, designed by Vilmos Huszar particularly caught my attention. Specifically the way the same exact rectangles create both the image and the type.
It seems to me like a practical method to create text, why not use the same structures used to create image, kill two birds with one stone kind of thing, and seeing as the spacers of the letterpress are perfect rectangles why not use those…? The Doesberg type shows this use of the letterpress spacers particularly well.One can see exactly where the spacers have been placed to create the alphabet.

alphabet-Theo-van-Doesburg-02

The same goes for Huszar’s use of ‘building blocks’ to create both the text and image of the magazine cover.

Huszar

Or what he made for the logo of Miss Blanche Cigarettes, again the same shapes are used to create the text and the image.

Miss Blanche Cigarettes, 1926

Miss Blanche Cigarettes, 1926

This theme of using the same ‘building blocks’ to create image and text alike began to be a recurring subject in my research on de stijl’s type design. The line between image and text seems to blur and they both become the same thing, both showing information to the viewer.

Another fine example of this, is the 1941 publication of the fairy tale Het Vlas (The Flax) written by Hans Christian Andersen and illustrated by Bart Van Der Leck. The entire book is constructed out of straight lines, both the text and the images. One can see the strict guidelines that Van Der Leck stuck to precisely. This idea of having strict rules interests me, I find myself doing this at times with my own work, for example not letting the pen lift off the page. Although it makes sense to create these guidelines at times, I do get to a point where I’m thinking ‘I could create a more satisfying outcome if I didn’t have these self imposed rules’. Perhaps I am experiencing a similar thought to that of Van Der Leck when after disagreements with other members of the movement he decided to depart from De Stijl and create more abstract works with diagonal lines and other shapes and colours. Here is an early piece by Van Der Leck from his time with De Stijl and then one of his later works where you can see his departure from the strict guidelines.

Compositie 1917 no. 3 (Leaving the Factory), 1917

Compositie 1917 no. 3 (Leaving the Factory), 1917

Abstract Composition, 1927

Abstract Composition, 1927

Going back to when he did use straight lines to illustrate the images and text for the fairytale, it seems as if this rigid rule was almost created as a challenge… To push further into the non obvious, the non default way of drawing things, the strictly abstract and to also challenge the viewer. In the literal sense as well: the text in this book is not necessarily easy to read.

Lets not forget who the audience of this book would have been though. If I imagine coming across this book as a child, lying among all the other softly illustrated fairytales it would definitely stand out, I would have had to focus extra hard on each letter for it to make sense and watch as the lines constructing the letters merge into the ones creating the images. This principle, the way the image and the text is created in the same way, out of the same blocks is what stands out most about the typefaces designed by De Stijl. To take this one step further, it could be said that it is all the same, all the creation made by these artists is the same, for they use the same rules and guidelines.

The buildings, the furniture, the paintings, the typeface, all a creation from the same lines, forms, shapes and colours. This element is what I tried to explore in this little animation, the way the same ‘building blocks’ can create image and type. The seemingly rigid forms shift and transform around the page and merge into each other. Where is the line between image and text? I tried to play with this concept by letting the ‘building blocks’ move around the page and shift from image to text and then back again.

On the subject of people, speaking on the subject of furniture…


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Furniture has a specific relationship to the individuals it is used by and to the space in which it resides. The space in which we live is determined by the shapes which fill the negative space.

When put under a micro-lens it becomes clear that furniture is a response to the time in which it was created.

Understanding this concept allowed me to begin to understand Gerrit Rietveld’s furniture. I first saw them as purely aesthetic objects, created for a specific class of artists that could admire them as pieces of art, rather than functional pieces of furniture. After some research; I realized that his intentions were actually the opposite, he actually intended for his furniture to be reproduced and used. I realized in order to better understand Rietveld’s furniture I needed to understand his motivations and relationship to his own work. I did this by attempting to understand other people’s relationships to his work. I interviewed people who own Rietveld furniture and asked why they have it, where they got it from and the role it plays in their space…

 

Henk Groenendijjk

Henk: This red and blue chair came from my father, he bought it in 1963. He got this just in time to brand it an original Rietveld chair (Rietveld †1964). The models he made, you could say, were almost prototypes, he just tried out all sorts of things. He made a few for the houses in that time and these are considered very original (vintage) and are now very expensive, most of them are in museums.

Me: So, this exact chair could be in a museum?

Henk: Yes, because everything is considered real on it. It is his design, made by his carpenter.

Me: Do you know why your dad wanted to buy it?

Henk: Ja, because he was fascinated by it. He was a very good friend of the director of the Stedelijk at the time and they probably talked about it. He was a dentist and an art collector.

Me: But did he use it, as a chair?

Henk: Yes, he always sat it in it. He had it in the corner of his study and always sat in it when he was reading. You can see it it is used. He said it was very comfortable. But now I have it, and I hesitate. I’m just more careful with it.

Me: Maybe also because it comes from your father, and it is such a collectors’ item now.

Henk: Yes, I think so. I don’t know. I don’t really dare to sit in it. But maybe if I had a bigger house or more space, less children I would. But yes, that’s it. It’s nice no?

It’s really special to have something that’s so original.

label chair bill henk

me and redblue chair

 

Ben Zegers

Ben: At home I have the so called Steltman chair. And it was made here (Gerrit Rietveld Acadmie) by Eve, and she also makes these zig-zag chairs…Rietveld of course, was very interested in simple constructions. But most of all he was interested, not so much in the object, but in the space, and how the material defines space. A chair is often symmetrical, this Steltman chair is not.

Me: Where do you have the chair in your home?

Ben: He draws a map, and points to a room… Sometimes I’ll put it in the middle of the room… Rietveld doesn’t care about sitting at all, if he did he would have done it completely differently I guess. But what’s important is the size, because that’s what relates to our body and it’s an easy way to deal with space in a limited site. But what is so interesting about this chair being nonsymmetrical is the way it connects to the floor. Like many of his other pieces, it’s all done from the same piece of wood as it were. Its cut up in different lengths and put together in a certain way. But it’s all describing space as it were; up, down, around, through, etc. Originally for Steltman Jeweler it was hollow, but I have a solid version.

Me: And do you ever sit on yours at home?

Ben: Yes, I do. Because it’s quite low, and it’s not a big chair. But it’s not very comfortable to sit in for long, it’s a good one to make a phone call. I can imagine it being next to a phone, an old-fashioned phone which no body has anymore.

What is most important in this Steltman chair, is the void, the space. There is a big difference between the chairs, the Crate chair is especially made so that everyone can make it. You don’t need anything, just a few screws.

crate and zig zag

 

Frans Oosterhof

Me: So, this is your red and blue Rietveld chair.

Frans: Yes, and it’s a perfect chair for reading a book. Because somehow if you’re reading here (on a sofa) you slip away, but on the Rietveld, you remain somehow a little bit more alert.

Me: Where did you get it from?

Frans: I knew Groenekan (†1994) the carpenter of Rietveld, and he gave me the drawings and then another carpenter made it.

Me: Why is it important for you to be surrounded by this style of furniture?

Frans: It is open, it is light, you can look through it. It’s not an obstacle. Its rather comfortable, but you still remain a little active. And for the eye. This is why I like the Rietveld chair, the construction is so visible. So, you see how it has been constructed… (The word) design to me has a little bit a bad connotation. All the design that you see now is all edelkitsch. And what to me is very important, and what to Rietveld was very important, is this visibility, openness, and that you can see the construction. Now design is very much decorative.

Me: It’s about the relationship between form and content.

Frans: Exactly, never divided.

red blue frans

  

Through these dialogues and conversations, I came to a critical understanding about Gerrit Rietveld; his furniture is a visual representation of his ideology. Space, light, and visible structures were meant to bring a working class of people into a better, brighter way of life. His forms reflected and supported his content; his ideals. And this relationship between form and content is the underlying support system in Rietveld’s work. The way his furniture is perceived today is an intrinsic paradox; a paradox anyone can see if they only ask the right questions.

 

Excerpts from “How to Construct Rietveld Furniture”, written by Peter Drijver and Johannes Niemeijer.

chair info 2 chair info 1 chair info 3

 

 

 

Adolf Loos vs Hansje van Halem and the importance of ornament in the contemporary world


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Adolf Loos was an Austrian and Czech architect and an influential European theorist of modern architecture. One of his famous buildings, Looshaus, is now one of the most representative architectures of the modernist movement, although at the time it was established it had received great opposition and contempt.

 

 

The industrial revolution, the sudden accumulated wealth, and the people who longed for the appearance of the nobleman came to the city to compete with the idea that they should be more splendid than anyone else and it is natural that such people despised Looshaus. Anyhow, Loos was established with his opinion, he believed that the ornaments were not beauty, but more as a self-display and that if an artist made commodities for aesthetic purpose, it would not reflect the way people live and would not have the necessary function. The ornaments were a crime for Adolf Loos, a waste of the craftsman’s time, they were made for the main purpose of aesthetic pursuit and must be eliminated from architecture and design. He said that if an artist produces household items for aesthetic purpose, it does not reflect the way people live and it is a crime to make the worker spend so much time on such a useless thing. Therefore, he can not be called extreme functionalist, rather, his ideals were to produce household goods and to build buildings by reflecting the people’s real life at the time. Alfred Loos want to send his message to people who are captivated only by their splendid ornament and life and who are trying to forget their past without being true.

 

59291451bfcde2e8a4f4df61c4343021-loosbuilding-535x408

 

Hansje van Halem is an Amsterdam based graphic designer, she is mainly interested in typography, book design and other printing techniques but she also experiments with computer processed graphic patterns and drawings. Her work is centred on “exquisite” typography, it is a fusion of ornamental patterns and letters which become more then letter-forms, they are ornaments wth a specific function, they are meant to be read.

 

Ornamentismeanttoberead

 

There are 100 years between the idea that Adolf Loos had about the use of ornament and the way Hansje van Halem is using it today, and it is very interesting to see how, although their point of view regarding it is so distant from each other, there’s still a big connection between two, both indeed are giving great importance to the “function” of their work, Loos eliminates the ornament because there is no function in it and van Halem on the other hand gives a function to it though the use of typography.

 

23602106_333892837084262_1573328493_n

 

But how are the contemporary artists and architects actually reacting to the Adolf Loos’s ideas nowadays ? There are different manifestations of the ornament’s resistance in the contemporary architecture, The London-based FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste) for instance consider ornaments as an important and indispensable part of architecture, Charles Holland, partner of the FAT says in an article from the Financial Times: “The Loos argument is very interesting. As I understand it, he was saying that ornamentation was a waste of labour, effort and craft. With contemporary techniques and manufacturing it is possible to achieve a lot of complexity and intricacy with very little effort, so there’s a weird reversal of his argument. We regard ornament less as a guilty pleasure and more as a communicative tool. There is traditionally a kind of puritanism in the UK, a rather macho approach in which engineering and high-tech appliqué is OK. It can all be justified in practical terms but I think we can look more critically now at a modernism in which the motifs of industry were applied to architecture to make it look modern, which in itself is a kind of ornamentation.”

The current computer technologies are also playing a big role in the contemporary w  orld, this modelling and manufacturing technologies has allowed the mass production of the most complex forms and ideas. Evan Douglis is using this technologies to create new strange, forms which recall baroque and rococo decoration in their own new digital world, he also says: “The technology and the software at our disposal now gives us enormous control over form, equations can become a material presence. We’re interested in that intricacy between pragmatism and retinal exuberance – it’s something that bridges the disciplines, from architecture to furniture, interiors and product.”

 

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This new digital tools are helping designers and artist in their work as never before in our history and are also an easy way to experiment with forms, letters and of course ornaments, it makes the whole procedure more interesting and exiting, this is how Loos’s position, after a century, is slightly starting to become invalid, and the ornament on the other hand is on it’s way to decriminalisation.

a cooperative research by Yuriy Krupey & Eun Seo Lee

Colour Coding Space


Thursday, October 19, 2017

When we paint we create compositions, shapes and forms from colour. The colour choice is important in our spaces and on our walls sending messages to the brain, different colours evoking different emotional response. Colour is engrained in literature and film like ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ where yellow connotes to madness and insanity or visually in ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’ (where blue features in every scene) we can see it as freedom in deeper tones and a depression as it becomes more diluted, in each context colour can play a different role. Red, the third primary, is depicted as villainous characters and day-to-day we see red road signs as danger. Each colour resonates, we have an emotional response, and this is why the psychology of colour is intrinsic to human life. Mondrian's Studio
Piet Mondrian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In De Stijl we saw a reduction in form and simplicity of colour pulling back to these three primary colours. This movement strived to strip back the chaos of war and the ornate elaborate architecture of 1917 as painters Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg took two dimensionality into the three dimensional architectural form. In Mondrian’s paintings the lines move out almost from the canvas to enter the viewers own space and pull you in to the squares of colour. In the recreation of Mondrian’s room I felt the same pull, there was a flow in the space that I enjoyed, the room was awash with white but had these fleck of colour that mirror his paintings. The freshness and purity was achieved through colour awakening my eyes to a new experience to colour. It opened up a window to my experience of colour and its effect on the soul, first looking at these three staple colours and then then into the wider sphere of the colour wheel.

 

Blue

My room also is predominantly white to promote a clean fresh feeling but is splashed with blue in curtains, cushions and rugs. Blue is said to promote a feeling of creativity in a study by the University of British Columbia as creative blue is represented as something that is not tangible, the sky, the horizon, the sea. Where sky meets sea it is a point of contact that can never be reached and this adds space to an environment and seems to give depth to a room. Rudolf Steiner’s schools used colour as a vital part of the formation of a child and blue was especially key. For the 6th, 7th and 8th grade the classrooms where painted blue because Steiner believed that we undergo a 9 year old change, finally seeing colours for what they are. Before the classrooms where painted in warmer reds and oranges because at this age the child sees the colours for their complimentary match on the opposite side of the colour wheel. So, in both cases the cooler blue tones calm the child down and add space for the child to focus, promoting Steiner’s non-suffocating environment to set free their thinking and ideas.

Steiner's Warm Classroom

 

 

Steiner's Cool Classroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow makes babies cry and irritation in adults which is why this colour is used to paint restaurant walls, stopping people from staying too long taking up valuable space. Where I currently live the walls are drenched in a bright sickly yellow pressing a sense of forced optimism, this tone reflects more light, excessively stimulating the eye making it understandable that yellow can fatigue both eye and optimism. ‘Yellow Scream’ by artist Kim Beom beautifully reflects this angst creating a composition reliant on the psychological weight of each scream. This use of yellow links back to an idea of madness and as Beom adds black it reflects Steiner’s theory of this darkened yellow depicting the grotesque creating a compelling piece of performance art. It is an unnatural colour, like the other primaries drawing away from the natural mirroring De Stijl’s movement, however out of this context yellow can be antagonistic to the human eye.

Red

 

In Barnett Newman’s ‘Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III’ we can see the use of an overwhelming red applied layer upon layer, the artist presents us with an invasive red further juxtaposing nature in industrial mechanical colours. This piece demands the viewing to look at it and have a reaction in Newman’s didactic idea rather than that of De Stijl’s expression of freedom, the red evoked such strong emotional response is was attacked by critics and attempted to be destroyed. The red of the teacher’s pen acts as a warning through colour conditioning and it is interesting that within a different a context primary colours can have a different response and pose as a protest. If we add white, however something different happens and pink can be used to calm. ‘Cool down pink’ is widely used in prisons in Switzerland to calm down the inmates because it is believed to be physically soothing. This soft feminine colour has spread through prison to Texas where prisoners are dressed in pink jumpsuits or drunkards being locked in pink cells to calm down. It is interesting how diluting such a vivid colour of blood, passion and anger can alter its effect on the human spirit becoming something to pacify a patient.

Pink Prison Cellpink-jailpink-inmate

The psychology of colour influences how we decorate our homes, institutions and environment. Tonal variation, hue and complimentary colours all play a role in how each day is coloured. De Stijl reduced it down to a purity and simplicity of colour that opens up new ways of seeing, transforming our space into something painterly and making the two dimensional into the three. We connect to colour through conditioning and through tone playing a part in each moment. Colour responds to the spaces we move in and alters our perspective on how we see our homes and world.

Is modernism still relevant today?


Thursday, October 19, 2017

poster-modernism

In the late 19th century, artists and craft-people in Europe already had a will of rupture with all the previous, too classics works. They saw in industrial revolution means of creating more accessible and more efficient productions.
This craving for newness emerged in Europe as new currents, such as Arts and Crafts, and later on, Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Neue Kunst. 
On the same time, artists experimented new ways of expressing emotions and feelings. Abstraction developed in art slowly in western Europe, inspired by the recent opening of Japan to the world, but also by all the feedback from the arts and traditions of French, dutch, German and  English colonies.

Fauvists tried collages and works with simple shapes and colors, but still in a slightly figurative way. Also, we can see in Dada and Cubism a new approach in composition,  use of shapes and colors, and, in the case of Dada, photomontage.

dada collage

We can notice in Fernand Leger’s work some approaches of the principle of modernist graphic design. Illustrations, at the edge of abstraction, and a game with the letters, where it becomes an entire part of the composition, using stencil characters and foundry typefaces. The imprint  of the man’s work is now less visible, as the use of the machine and standardisation of shapes and characters are now a solid part of the artistic production.

fernand leger

At this point graphic design, and, of course, being a graphic designer isn’t a status in itself. It consists of experiments by artists in western Europe, and artists alongside with architects and designers in the central and eastern part of the continent.

The early 20ties century in Europe has been the theater of a lot of revolutions and wars. Seeking refuge and peace, or simply trying spread new theories, architects and artists moved around in Europe. Starting from the 1918’s, The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland become places where the intellectual Avant-Garde starts to develop, not in private, but as groups.

This results in the creation of collectives of artists, architects and designers, all teaching, and rethinking the place of design, art and architecture in this modern, industrialized society. They fully embrace that industrialization and the new means of production brought by it to create new, peculiar designs. Modernism is born.

We can isolate several groups working on the raise of modernism alongside Europe, inspired by new theories on fine arts (constructivism, Suprematism) from Russia and Italian futurism. Almost each central European country had its own movement: De Stijl for the Netherlands, the Deutscher Werkbund and later on the Bauhaus school in Germany, the Wiener Werkstatte for Austria, and Der Schweizer werkbund for Switzerland.

They all had the same goal of one philosophy, that binds architecture, art, product design, and later, graphic design. To sum it up, we can quote Henry Van de Velde’s lecture to the Swiss Werkbund in 1947 :
“That chain, which has extended across the centuries, which in the end shows just one family, one single family of pure form and pure decoration, a unique style: one that is rationally conceived, consisting of pure forms determined by their function”.

das neue heim

Of course, these groups had to communicate, on exhibitions, but also monthly, to keep the Europe informed of their progress. They started using magazines and posters to spread their words. This is how graphic design entered and embraced modernism. Of course, it was a new mean of expression, and architects of the modernism, to remain within the modernist unity, applied modernist architecture principles to it. These magazines (De Stijl, Die Form, Das Werk, Bauhaus), even if their main subject was not graphic design, expressed the group’s beliefs on type and composition through their formal construction.

Die Form cover

 

Out went symmetry, ornament and drawn illustration; in came white space, plain letter forms  and photographs. 
But even after all those works, Europe had to wait until 1928 for someone to actually theorize graphic design, with Jan Tschihold’s “Die neue Typografie”. This book is the starting point of the idea of graphic design to be a separate kind of design, with its own principles. And as you can guess by its title, it explains the rules and ways of using the self-proclaimed new typography : lineal characters, absence of symmetry, purpose of the white space, hierarchy of the information.

 

Die Neue Typografie

 

With all those interventions, modernist graphic design became what we know today: sober, using photographs, collage, geometrical shapes and a small range of colours to illustrate, with simple, lineal fonts for the text.

But as the fascism rises in the 30’s in Europe, the intellectuals had to flee from Nazi Germany, and went in Switzerland, neutral country, or in the USA.

Overall, to understand modernist graphic design and its aesthetic, we need to understand that it was created in a mean of efficiency, by people who were not graphic designers, and who experimented for a long time before finding something that would suit their beliefs. It is born out of architectural principles, and as a part of the modernist’s formal aesthetics. And it was so radical, and such a brutal change, that all along the 20th century and still today, we can feel its influence. Just look at you computer. The font you’re reading right now is probably Helvetica.

Thus, we may ask ourselves « is it still relevant to use modernist principles in graphic design ». That is, in our opinion, a legitimate question. It is true that, in a contemporary creative process, using 1930’s ideas might be perceived as some kind of stagnation, our even a regression in the thinking of graphic design. That is not our opinion. But as some ideas, or principles; for instance the universal grid, are killing the thinking and creative process in the long term, it is important to go further than that, and keep investigating what those developments of ideas has permitted us, and what is the next step, in this constant research of efficiency, and simplicity.

.poster neue

a cooperative research by Souheila Chalabi and Antoine Dauvergne

A feeling that reality can be heightened


Thursday, October 19, 2017

With my roll of freshly drawn papers I step out of my house on a rainy day in the direction of Rietveld. I see my neighbour throwing away a stack of paper rolls. Another unfamiliar face to me of the many people living in the city of Amsterdam. The rain is too bad to go out without protecting my papers, and I manage to put my roll of papers in one of the tubes.

Satisfied with the abundance of the trash of the city I cycle away. Smiling because I realise that sometimes a problem can be solved unexpected, quick and easy. Many times the world around me seems too complex and too unpredictable to find suitable solutions. This complexity and unpredictability often gives me the idea that the world around me is imperfect and far away of any ideal world, any fantasy world or any utopian world. I start to wonder how artists and designers of different times make an attempt to get step by step closer to for them a more perfect world.

pposter_950

 

Questioning the material world

Opening my paper roll at Rietveld I see there is still a poster in it. A well protected and kept poster. A poster that once was a solution to a certain question. I try to figure out the question that lays hidden in this poster. Why and based on which principles is this made? As an artist and designer myself, I keep on questioning this to the material world around me. But many times, I find myself in getting shallow answers and understanding of the material world around me.

A well protected and kept poster. A poster that once was a solution to a certain question. I try to figure out the question that lays hidden in this poster. Why and based on which principles is this made? As an artist and designer myself, I keep on questioning this to the material world around me. But many times, I find myself in getting shallow answers and understanding of the material world around me.

 

                                             The solution for a problem

 

New Social Design

I send him a mail and we meet up the next day. Melle Hammer tells me how he is creating mainly by necessity. He says "The difference between art and design is ridiculous. The underlying principle is just the creating, nothing else". Creating is not to create a nice fancy tool, not to have something decorative, but just to serve a certain function. He tells that his girlfriend had a birthday party but didn't had enough space to let all the guests sit, so in one day he made a table and extra chairs so all the guests had a place and a table to eat from.

“The difference between art and design is ridiculous. The underlying principle is just the creating, nothing else”

In making his decisions certain things are important. Such as recycling, using everything from the material and not creating waste, and using simple material options and using the maximum of working with the qualities of the material. In hearing his story of his years as a student and as an professional designer you hear mainly his eagerness. The eagerness in his hands, the eagerness in his ideas, the eagerness in his eyes and the eagerness in giving smart solutions to the world around him.

MelleHammer

He tells me that he just moved out. He is now looking for a new place to live and recently went to Almere to visit the project called The Fantasy and The Reality. Thise project I consider as Modern Social Design. Modern Social Design is a new term used in design. A group of people is attracted by it to shape reality. Examples of principles they work from are:

  1. Search a connection with the society
  2. Design social
  3. Sustainable
  4. Connect ethics with eastethics
  5. Strife towards involvement
  6. Be critical
  7. Be transparent
  8. Be humble and serving
  9. Be dedicated and radical
  10. Take responsibility together.

The fantasy and the reality

All these principles can be found in this project. Melle explains to me that Almere knows two experimental neighbourhoods, The Fantasy and The Reality. These two neighbourhoods are a result of a contest. On a place of 450 m2 people were able to design a house with fantasy, with a temporary character, this was the assignment for The Reality. The designers did not had to take construction rules, destination plans and quality requirements. The seventies winning designs are realised with a subsidy with tenthousand gilder. Just as The Fantasy, did the buildings get a temporarily character. The place is now functioning as a holy place for people that love experimental architecture. The inventive solutions on energy, price and recycling are serving recent issues. The first experimental neighbourhood in Almere was the neighbourhood The Fantasy. In 1982 a contest was send out with the name “unusual living”. The idea was to break down the neighbourhood after 5 years, but the project was a great succes and got the status of high architectural appreciation. After 5 year it was decided to keep the neighbourhood. A second design competition started after the succes of The Fantasy. To develop diversity was the theme “temporary living”. The participants didn’t had to be a designer or architect. These days a lot of Dutch and foreign tourists visit the neighbourhood on a yearly base. In this story as well, you hear that the initial plan is adapted and new decisions are made. This is again the research and the questions again that counts most.

How high can the creative class rise?

Giving, creating or claiming empty spaces to let something new emerge is essential for the development of the world around is. This is a great example of a place the government gives to let something new emerge. A answer to a question of how should the world look like when designers get the freedom to create? A realised fantasy, a small utopian answer. These places of creative explosion are essential to create and keep a creative class in society alive. For more in-depth understanding of the creative class, Richard Florida wrote the book “The rise of the creative class“.

 

Utopian thoughts in design

This wish to develop works for a future utopia is alive in a lot of human beings. To my own surprise, I relate the word utopia in the first place to social and economical issues. The word utopia is first used by Sir Thomas Moore in 1516. He used this word for an ideal community or society possessing perfect socio-political-legal system. In this definition I don’t hear much about architecture or design. Utopian visions are of all times and shapes, as written by Faber and Faber in the Faber book of Utopias. They keep embarking of new creative solutions and ways what it means to be human and live in a society. A specific field that draws my attention are utopian thoughts about sound as a more integrated part of our societies. A specific symposium was held about this topic called Utopia of Sound. This in bundled in a book by Diedrich Diederichsen and Constanze Ruhm. For the excerpt click this link. It was held in 2008 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.  Here thought were shared about futuristic ideas about the sonic. Not emancipated from music, but sound as a genre on itself.  Sound gives human freedom against the representational logic of notation, Societies can get stuck in patterns that are harmful. How can you give people a mechanism to escape from that trap and make real progress? In many famous utopias, design and architecture are not the main focus but the condition humans live by.

De Stijl

stijl

Although, the fact that De Stijl exists this year (2017) for hundred years made me realise how much designers work from an utopian idea just as much as social and political change makers. An exposition in the Gemeente Museum in The Hague (Den Haag) elaborates broadly on this topic. I always believed that the material and shaped world around me is less important than the situation. Diving into the stijl actually made me aware of the fact that this goes often hand in hand.

Gemeente_museumWhere Thomas Moore uses Utopia as a perfect place, diving into how design works. I come closer to realise that the perfect place is an illusion to live up to, but creating a perfect research and process will give in the end more output.

In that sense, the developments the Stijl made are fascinating to follow. The Stijl stands out because its aspirations were as social as they were aesthetic. By ostensibly removing the individualism of the artist in favor of precision and universal harmonies. The De Stijl (Dutch for “the style”) group was one of several art and design movements that responded to the chaotic trauma of World War I with a “return to order.” Their aspirations were total: in order to reform society, their aesthetic aimed to eliminate false distinctions between so-called “high art,” “applied art” (such as graphic or product design) and architecture. The fascinating aspect is that De Stijl artist made a huge impact on modern designers: minimal simplicity, establishing tension and balance between solid and empty space, the grid. The style has been a katalysator for innovation.

The most remarkable way of creating was the way of Mondrian. BBC wrote an in-depth clarifying blog about his vision. He was applying his utopian rules in his own lifestyle. Other people part of the stijl were focussed on shaping other people their surroundings, but on a less rigorous way in their own life. With Mondrian it was exactly the other way around. It speaks for itself that in his interior only his own paintings were there. In the end, he is one of the most radical de stijl interio designers. By 1909, he felt sufficiently self-confident to depart radically from 19th Century traditions – as witnessed by the way he transformed his studio. He got rid of some old-fashioned furniture, as well as several fusty carpets and drapes, and painted the walls bright white. For the rest of his life, Mondrian always arranged his working environment sparsely and meticulously, in a way that chimed with his abstract paintings – as journalists who came to interview him often noticed. Between 1921 and 1925, Mondrian created in his famous studio in Paris at Rue de depart 26 an environment that corresponded exactly with his idea of the the new plastic, as he called his extraordinary art. A famous quote of him is: everything is expressed through relationships. This is made directly clear by everything that is in his work space with a reason. Carefully placed and thought of. In his mind a radical world of an artist takes place, that works on new art for a not yet existing outside world. The desire for the style is entirely satisfied in it.

mondrianinhisstudioinparis193372

Slowly I start to see the profound relationship between utopian ideas and Mondrian’s art. His art can give a feeling of heightening reality. And that’s what Mondrian was searching for in his paintings: a heightened experience of reality. Certainly, his abstract paintings have a sure grasp of a visual utopia.

In the stories of Mondrian I hear his obsession for modernity. Sometimes he gets criticised that he did not had a relation to the real world. Some people assume that he was living a monk-like life, who devoted his life to abstract paintings with no relation to the real world. Although, throughout his career, he engaged with, and fed off, aspects of modernity that he encountered in the cities where he lived. He loved music and clothes, always kept up with the latest developments in popular culture. From this I learn that sometimes it is necessary not to have a close relation with the real world and withdraw from it, to give a new answer on the question what it means to be human.

In hearing the stories of these designers, they seem to have a sharp analysing ability in questioning the world around them. Plus being aware of their dissatisfaction and being able to react on that with a new solution, a new answer. In the work of these people I sense a strictness to the principles they work from. A certain sincerity, directness and clarity to that what they create.

 

Shaping your world

In the end designers and artist can focus on shaping and creating the world of people around them, but most essential is shaping your own direct world. Next to really doing the deed of creating, it is of importance to share stories and moments of an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. For me the creators that take the effort to make a change in their direct surrounding the most true to themselves. From their way of decision making, we can learn that working, creating and implementing your own utopian ideas in your direct surrounding are essential to let your own utopian ideas become more realistic. It is necessary for people to learn that the acces, the freedom and the impact people have on their direct living surrounding is always present. It is the direct space people live in and have the freedom to shape it.

 

 The necessity of uplifting stories

After the conversation with Melle, I realise that he was the owner of the cardboard cases. The poster designed as well by a great photographer lady from Rietveld that committed suicide. As sad the story can get. This reminds me to even share more stories of hope that an uplifted version of reality is possible. The last week was full of expected and unexpected relationship with humans and objects. I used them to get new inspiration and to express my insights. I look at the cardboard case that came into my live by necessity and I look at the poster that came into my life by coincidence. Realising now, that the unknown face of last week and the unfamiliar and meaningless poster for me, now became a familiar face, with a name and a story. And that an understanding in me was born that where the poster, the font, the colours and the layout came from. I smile realising that with being eager to understand the simple question “Why is this made and based on which principles?” gave me an unexpected answer back that helped me to develop further my own design and art principles. The accessibility to smart solutions, can in this case, and in many others, literally be found on every street corner in Amsterdam. Many designers create from their own inner utopia. Everyone has moments that they experience something or hear something that sparks our imagination that the reality we currently experience is heightened. This drive to keep on searching and creating for a heightened idea of reality will keep people and the material world moving forward.

Architecture and Environment Coexisting


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Presenting itself as the architecture of the future, the new ideals of De Stijl privileged man-made realities, and therefore they had to be detached as much as possible from anything that might recall elements we find in nature. But is it really the best solution for a human, which is to all extents a natural creature, to be living in an environment which denies such a big part of its essence?

Imposing

Theo Van Doesburg, one of the founders of De Stijl movement, believed that because you can’t imitate nature, and you therefore need to move as far away from it in your design. There should therefore be a clear separation between nature and culture. A building with clean geometry, primary colours and curated composition was in his opinion the best way of creating a holistic experience. Studying his theories, sketches and actual buildings it appears that the surroundings should fit into the atmosphere the building creates, rather than the building into its surrounding. Van Doesburg followed his theory mercilessly. And maybe this strict praxis is the reason that only a few of his architectural designs actually got build.

It makes sense that, considering the time frame in which De Stijl developed, artists promoted a radical new approach to design and art, disclaiming anything that might refer to the past. This is true for De Stijl but also for the futurist movement and many others. We are forced to recognize that any movement in any context has an influence on what follows. The idea that a space should be as impervious as possible to any organic shape or colour, advocates an understanding of the world where humans are placed diametrically opposed to nature, and justifies a sort of alienation from it. In a way this is still just a residue of the dialectic of the Enlightenment. Evolution in this mindset is seen as the process of placing humanity as superior to its surroundings, and as consequence, of marginalizing it to new self-made environments with no regard to the old ones. Examples can be seen in Van Doesburg’s works such as the Huis Van Zessen, the project for the Maison d’artiste, and in L’aubette Cafe. This multifunctional cinema and dancehall presented a minimalistic interior and bold decoration of diagonally squares in strong colours were not normally seen in public spaces. And even though the creation is considered a masterpiece today, customers did not feel comfortable when visiting the Café. The atmosphere of the place was not considered cozy. The L’aubette Café makes you wonder if Van Doesburg’s theory is simply too strict and fierce to execute in real life. This manner of not taking the surroundings and people into account, has without doubt stimulated a big development in the way we think about design today. But is this challenging style too distant from the user’s demands to actually work?

aubette cafe

 L’aubette Cafe

Combining

Even though De Stijl has become very influential, and we see elements that allude to it in many modern design and architectural works, the issue of the role of nature has been re-considered in different ways. For instance, Frank Lloyd Wright represents a more organic approach of  doing this. His works mirror his belief that structures should reflect harmony between humans and nature. He achieved this by incorporating the present natural elements into the design of the structure. Each new design was carefully thought into the environment it should be in. The most famous example is the praised Falling Water House, built in Pennsylvania in 1935. The house is built on top of a cliff from which a waterfall originates. And although the modern house consists of inorganic geometrical rectangles, it seems perfectly in harmony with the surroundings. This is achieved by the use of rock-like bricks and the synergy between the position of the house and the waterfalls helps it to both stand out and to fit into its surroundings. This approach of placing minimalistic houses in the middle of wild nature has since become popular. For many it’s seen as the ideal way of achieving architectural serenity and a way to be in touch with nature, which is paradoxical considering the contrast between the unstructured wild nature and the inorganic shape of the these kind of houses.

fallingwater-3

 Falling Water House

Incorporating

Another compromise is to literally immerse the structure into nature, making the whole as homogeneous as possible. This is evidently the opposite of Van Doesburg’s philosophy. As an approach it dates back to primitive housing, when nature itself had to provide shelter. Turf- houses were used as dwellings for thousands of years. Because of the turf’s biodegradable properties, this tradition has been lost. Still in countries like Iceland it’s not difficult to encounter traditional turf houses that blend completely with the surroundings.

turfhouses icland

Icelandic Turf-House

In modern architecture these principles of integration have continued to develop. An example could be Malator Earth House in Druidston, Pembrokeshire, Wales, built in 1998 and designed by architects Future Systems for a former Member of Parliament; or Villa Vals in Switzerland, which was designed by Bjarne Mastenbroek and Christian Müller, respectively of the architectural offices SeARCH and CMA. Their design plan was to completely integrate the villa into the landscape to avoid disturbing the unspoiled nature.

malator earthhouse

Malator Earth House

villa vals

Villa Vals

Rethinking

Aside from the aesthetical differences between the architectural typologies we have analysed, what really is relevant is the interaction between the building and nature. The fact that nature determines the building’s survival, as well as ours, can’t be ignored, and now it’s clearer than ever. The sort of ideology promoted by movements like of De Stijl, that didn’t take into consideration nature and its resources, represents in a way the cause of all the major ecological issues we are facing today. Turf houses and eco-houses that merge totally with nature are not only an architectural achievement but also an ideological one as most of the resources aim to be sustainable. It’s necessary now to find a new way of incorporating sustainability in our lifestyles and as consequence in our architecture.

a cooperative research by Thea Knarberg & Emma Sardoni

Mondrian, Rietveld, Theosophy.. wait, what???


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Have you ever heard about theosophy?

We didn’t either, but check out this article because then you’ll know how it influenced Mondrian and Rietveld’s work.

 

Theosophy- what does this even mean?

 

theosophy

 

It is a unity of Religion, Science, and Philosophy that combines a variety of belief systems in its search for an underlying universal harmony. Basically, it is everything, therefore you have to be very focused to understand what specific ideas it defends and how is this shown or practiced in art and life in general.
It is also a doctrine of religious philosophy and mysticism (so it isn’t a religion itself), but holds that all religions contain elements of truth.
Theosophical writers hold that there is a deeper spiritual reality and that direct contact with that reality can be established through intuition,  meditation, revelation, or some other state transcending normal human consciousness.
Theosophy has influenced many artists among whom were Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Gauguin, Malevich, Gerrit Rietveld (and some others from De Stijl movement) and Pollock too. This beliefs played a crucial role in the work of this artists, whose works were seemed to search for the understanding of spirituality.
All in all, theosophy seeks to integrate perception and thought, the natural world and the spiritual work, science and religion.

 

How did theosophy influence De Stijl

 

De Stijl magazine was publishing the group’s design work combined with theoretical writings which also contained mysticism. Members were deeply influenced by theosophy which was also an important part of Bauhaus. You can see that in the way they rejected any form of naturalism in favour of a formal abstraction that connected the movement with Russian Constructivism.

De Stijl group wanted to create a new kind of art, architecture and design in order to raise a disillusioned humanity from the horrors caused by World War 1 and as many artists throughout Europe, they attempted to liberate the arts from tradition. They wanted to change art from individual to ultimate, universal. Their vision was based on deconstructivism – reducing the universe to fundamental elements and forms – the vertical and horizontal lines became the symbols of universal harmony, to which were added primary colours red, blue and yellow along with black, white and gray (considered non-colours). Even if you don’t understand the deeper meaning of theosophy, these are the things you can recognize in artworks of De Stijl movement.
Anyways, members were aiming towards geometrical and technical art which would be an experience as a whole. They were trying to give art a spirit of forms and mystification.
What was important for them was purity in architecture, the absence of organic and personal forms. Like theosophists, members of De Stijl believed in the presence of deeper spiritual reality, whereas a direct contact is established through a state transcending normal human consciousness. They brought a sense of material, intellectual and spiritual unity to art, architecture and design.
 

theo-van-doesburg-neoplasticism-composition-vii-the-three-graces1917 eb3bc17f85aec4c6a9be84a677c1bcdd--geometric-art-abstract-shapes

Theo van Doesburg’s work related to Neoplasticism – a work from Vilmos Huszar

Mondrian as a member of De Stijl

 

His path to Neoplasticism

 

Mondrian intensified gradually his expressive manner of painting and began to have a more and more intensive use of colours, that eventually lead him to the need to depict the visible aspects of reality.
From 1908, Mondrian began to work in search for a truly form of painting. The artist came to the conclusion that the pure, intense, inner colours (the primary colours) and a simple manifestation of the line (horizontal and vertical) could help reach an abstract form of art that would be suitable to the spirit of the new modern age.
In 1917, Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg founded the group De Stijl. Mondrian used this magazine as a vehicle for his ideas on art, and it was actually in the magazine where he defined his aims and the term Neoplasticism. Though Mondrian established his only visual manifestation/painting style: Neoplasticism, based on philosophical and moral considerations associated with theosophy, this name was also applied not only for his work, but also for the art that the De Stijl circle practised in the different areas.
The intention would be to use the form and line to reduce the visible reality to its essence. So, in Neoplasticism, all the abstraction is connected with the reality. The elements are displaced from their visible form, but reflected in an abstract dimension.
As Mondrian himself considered:

”As a pure representation of the human mind, art will express itself in an aesthetically purified, that is to say, abstract form. The new plastic idea cannot therefore, take the form of a natural or concrete representation – this new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and colour. On the contrary it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour.”

Mondrian uses the basic elements of painting: line, form and colour in their purest, most fundamental state, creating compositions with different lines and planes, verticals and horizontals, neutral and primary colours in a universal visual language that everyone could understand intuitively.
Two years later, the architect- designer Gerrit Rietveld joined De Stijl, which had a significant impact on the Neo-plasticists’ ideas and production.
Influenced by theosophy’s ideas, Mondrian reduces all elements to straight lines that cross and form various sized squares and rectangles and restricts the palette to pure neutral primary colors and black, white and grey. This was his proposal to represent the universal order, rather than the physical meaningless world.

Mondriaan in Stijl 1         Mondriaan in de Stijl_950

Modrian’s texts on Neoplasticism

How is Neoplasticism connected with theosophy?

 

Piet Mondrian was raised in the protestant church and later on, in 1909, joined the Dutch Theosophical Society, which was one of the main spiritual movements in the Western society at the end of the 19th century. This Society was founded in the United States but quickly spread throughout Europe and had an immediate influence on art, particularly in the Netherlands. In fact this influence was so visible that forty Dutch artists participated in the exposition organized in 1904 in Amsterdam for the Theosophical Society’s International Convention.
From this time on, theosophy was to be a major influence in life and work of Mondrian.
In the journal De Stijl [x], Mondrian published some articles about the influence of Theosophy. In this articles, the artist analyzes the role of traditional art that he considers as a consequence of the lack of harmony inside of man (conflict between matter and spirit) and the imbalance between man and nature. For Mondrian, theosophy was the answer to this imbalance. Theosophy principles could, in his ideas, bring consciousness of the self, and as a result, bring the harmony in this relations.
For him, when the consciousness of individuality or, in other words, the concept of spirit emerges, two conflicts emerge with it. The first one would be the conflict between this individual spirit and his physical body. The second one, as a consequence of the first one, is a confrontation between man and nature, generating a ‘disharmony between man and his surrounding,’ or simply ‘the tragic in life’ as the artist considered.
In this way, we can consider that Neoplastic art arises from the same principal as traditional art does- from the perception of an imbalance inside of man. However, Neoplastic art tries to represent an absolute truth directly: the idea that if the artist represents it, is because he knows it, and not just some partial and accidental truth as traditional art seems to do it.
The aim of Neoplastic art is the representation of the absolute, almost like religion. By reaching this goal, he would be able to help the common man finding his inner balance. How? Modifying the external world to another one capable of bringing some inward balance: by transforming the surrounding environment, he would transform the man itself, and consequentially the society.

 

“Art –although and end in itself, like religion– is the means through which we can know the universal and contemplate it in plastic form.” (Mondrian, 1918)

 

Neoplastic art’s objective is to restore in man a balance with his environment, lost when man gains consciousness of his own individuality. Neoplastic art should be dissolved and fused into and with life.
For the artist himself, neoplastic art shouldn’t be limited to painting but rather extends to architecture and urbanism, and in this way make a real change in the environments. Mondrian considered that each artistic disciplines should perform a specific role, and together they should reflect the common harmony of the universe.
Therefore, for Mondrian, painting’s task would be to act as the guide for the rest of the other disciplines and eventually be dissolved, if the task is successful, into architecture, urbanism, life.
We can consider that theosophical beliefs are expressed in Mondrian’s neoplastic work, both, theoretically and concretely, in a constant demand for a true theosophical art.
Art is, in this way, a reflection of the absolute, “the Radiating Center” (as Theosophy calls it), which is the original force, creator of everything (idea that nature and spirit are manifestations of the same original whole: universal/cosmic order).
The artist, thereby, is the “translator” of a higher reality, and his works must repeat the representation of this “Radiating Center”.
Art should reproduce the conflict between opposing elements and the solution for that same conflict. The image of harmony cannot be static, but represented by multiple dialectics: two levels of elements, among which, simultaneous oppositions are produced (line/plane, vertical/horizontal, female/male, color/colorless…) The universal force/cosmic order/ the harmony, is so expressed in the duality between this contrasts.
While searching fot the harmony between opposites, Mondrian aims to help common man access his own inner harmony. By transforming the entire natural environment, the artist would establish the balance and reflect the image of the common origin of all creation: of the absolute. In this balanced environment, the common man can reach his inner equilibrium.

 

mondrian2

 Composition A, Piet Mondrian (1920)

 

Gerrit Rietveld as another member of De Stijl

 

He was born in Utrecht in 1888. His father was a cabinet maker and when just a little child, Rietveld joined the family workshop. His apprenticeship was steeped in the traditions of the Arts and Crafts movement which can be seen in his early work (first attempts of furniture design).
In 1911 he opened his first shop in Utrecht and started studying architecture. As many others, he was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. By 1919 he became a member of De Stijl and became friends with its members Huszar, Theo van Doesburg, Robert van t’Hoff and others.

 

What influenced Rietveld’s work?

 

Theosophy played a major role in Mondrian’s art, but since Rietveld was a member of De Stijl too (although he never actually met Mondrian), we can also see the influences of the proclaimed philosophical ideas in his work.
In De Stijl architecture and design, Cubism was again influential but so also were Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie House designs, with their asymmetric free-flow of interior and exterior spaces. Despite all that, Rietveld’s ideas were more down to earth and less philosophical that the ones of Mondrian and Doesburg. He didn’t speak frequently about his work. Therefore the interpretation of it is based on the more philosophical tenets of the other De Stijl artists (members were very different considering a way of thinking) and it sometimes seems as if the designer’s voice may have been overshadowed.
Rietveld’s painted Red/Blue chair became the archetype of the movement, it was also the first time that the De Stijl colours, usually used 2D, (on Mondrian and van Doesburg’s paintings) were applied to a three-dimensional object. It was the first major piece of furniture to accord with the movement’s principles – conceived as a spatial composition, conspicuously disregarding comfort, traditional construction techniques and concepts of decoration (built on a series of horizontal and vertical planes, provides a clear expression of the group’s ideas).

rietveld1
Gerrit Rietveld: Red and blue chair

 

With the Schroder’s house Rietveld created a totally original vocabulary in building construction and in the treatment of interior living space. The complex, asymmetric cubic construction of horizontal and vertical planes and lines encloses and releases space in a three-dimensional equivalent of a Mondrian painting. Linear elements are red, blue, yellow or black; surfaces white or grey.

 

 schroder housecover-schroder-house-rietveld-utrecht
Gerrit Rietveld: Schroder house

 

A major effect on Rietveld was also Frank Lloyd Wright’s work who was a functionalist and a part of an International style. The most influential details from his work were the flow he produced between interior and exterior and also the use of verticals and horizontals. You can also see that in Rietveld’s last work, Gerrit Rietveld Academie where glass surfaces are made in a way you can see through the building, therefore it merges with surrounding nature.

 

Fallingwater

robie-house-02-2

Frank Lloyd Wright: Fallingwater Frank Lloyd Wright: Robie house

 

While quickly recognized as a major contributor to the development of Modernist architecture, interior and furniture design, Rietveld’s later work was largely confined to furniture design. Most known examples are his tubular steel and wood Beugelstoel chair, wooden Zig-Zag chair and wooden Crate chair. Among his other design work was the Netherlands pavilion for the 1954 Venice Biennale and a sculpture pavilion in Arnhem, Holland, built in 1955.
His furniture was designed for a mass production to be available to a large audience, even though at the end is wasn’t mass produced nor standardized – no two versions had the same dimensions.
It’s funny how when you see buildings, you mostly don’t think about the theoretical background of their form. Until we started making this research, we were more focused on functionalist features of buildings and which movement or era they belong too, but now we find ourselves thinking: ” Do this shapes represent some philosophical ideas?”

 

To conclude …

 

It’s interesting how the abstraction of Mondrian and Rietveld’s work seems to be so far from theosophical ideas – when you see the chair or a painting you don’t make an instant connection.
Mondrian and Rietveld both seems to try to make art that could reach the majority of people –a painting that would have an universal meaning (Mondrian) and a furniture that would be available for masses (Rietveld) – Art for everyone, art that would make life better. In a way, one can consider it an utopian idea, since the majority of people does not really understand the theosophical thinking … So the question remains: How educated should someone be when experience their art? Or in other words, to what point do you have to be aware of the purpose of the work to have the full experience of it? [x]

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Now you know. Awesome, isn’t it?

a cooperative research by Neza Kokol and Carlota Bóia Teixeira Neto

An unexpected journey


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Where is Harderwijk? What is Harderwijk? I left the train station in Arnhem, not so ready for a two and a half hour travel to the museum of Harderwijk. There was an exhibition of Vilmos Huszar I wanted to visit, but I just couldn’t think of where Harderwijk is on the map. Is it a city or a village? And why would Vilmos Huszar want to live and work there?

Vilmos Huszar was born in Budapest in 1884. In 1904 he started studying arts in München where he met Anna Egter van Wissekerke. In 1905 they moved to the Hague, the city that would become the center of De Stijl. In the next few years he was travelling a lot and in 1908 he decided to build up a life in the Netherlands and he never went back to his home country. Anna’s parents would not accept a marriage which led to his marriage in 1909 with her best friend Jeanne van Teijlingen with which he also got a child.

After only half an hour in the train we stopped; For your own safety please leave the train at the next station, our apologies. I am very used to these situations with our Dutch train companies so I stayed calm. After waiting half an hour in the dutch cold and rainy weather the next train arrived. Off course this train had some delay which made me miss my next train.

Vilmos Huszar

Vilmos Huszar

Vilmos Huszar was experimenting with many different paint styles from 1906 to 1917. A few examples of these styles are divisionism, fauvism, symbolism, futurism, expressionism and synthetism. He referred to this period as the modern period. In 1912 he had his first painting exhibition in the Netherlands. After three years he started meeting artists that would influence the turning point in his art. These artists were Bart van der Leck, Theo van Doesburg, Jan Wils and Chris Beekman. In 1917 the first edition of the magazine of De Stijl was created of which Vilmos Huszar designed the famous logo.

de Stijl magazine

de Stijl magazine

New building materials like reinforced concrete and steel, and the principles of prefabricated construction helped change architecture in the late nineteenth century. Design tended to lag behind technology, however. The architects of De Stijl also designed in the traditional way at first. It was not until later that they began experimenting with new materials, using a new architectural form language, as evidenced by their square, geometric structural volumes, often with rendered walls and flat roofs. Huszar and Rietveld’s space-colour-composition can be regarded as one of the most successful of De Stijl’s interior designs. The radical example of total design can be read both as a plea for the integration of painting, furniture design and architecture and as a manifesto concerning the intimate relationship between colour and space.

Space is experience, spiritual experience. De Stijl sought to deliver a spiritual experience, albeit more universal. The designers of this generation tried to achieve this with huge, monumental spaces that nevertheless had clear architectural boundaries. To them, colour was an effective means of achieving a new spiritual living environment. The idea was to allow the new abstract style of painting to merge completely with architecture.

Eventually I arrived at Harderwijk, still not sure where I was. I went to the bus station and waited a while. After ten minutes I realized none of my busses had arrived yet. The bus station looked abandoned besides the few people in red and black working clothes. I realized they work at Walibi World, a luna park in Holland. A bus showed up, not the bus I had to take. It was going to Walibi World, just like the next three busses. I still didn’t know where Harderwijk was but I knew it was close to Walibi World.

abandoned bus station

Abandoned bus station

Developments in the industrial production of paint made the vibrant colours used by artists available for architectural interiors, too. The artists of De Stijl made colour ‘separate from the structure’ to ensure that the building was liberated from its conventional enclosed character.

Most art pieces Huszar made in the period he was working at De Stijl have been destroyed after his request. The few art pieces that remain untouched are now situated in big museums around the world.

Finally a lot of busses arrived, most of them going towards France and passing the city center of Harderwijk. Wait what, France is not close to Walibi World right? Or is it? Now I was completely disoriented. I thought my topographical skills were pretty good but after that day I gave up on them. I got in a bus, the woman behind the wheel looked at me, didn’t say a thing. She appeared to me as someone who is tired of living, she was driving like that as well.

In 1920 Vilmos Huszar left De Stijl, it is not totally clear why but some people state it was because of a fight with van Doesburg about the colour scheme Huszar designed. He had enough of the traditional way of painting, he stated it was just a easel painting to fill up museums. We think Huszar’s diversity in his artworks was also a big influence on his leaving of De Stijl. We take this letter he sent to his formal art teacher Bremmer as an example;

“I believe that I am too much of an artist to assimilate what I learned from you in my art works. I write you this so you don’t make any useless efforts. I cannot leave my path but maybe proceed, that means seeing my own way as a tool. I hope to stay in contact.”

Here are a few examples of Huszar’s diversity in artworks besides his paintings, of which one a video of a mechanical dancing figure made in 1920.

Mayors necklace - 1956 Boys bedroom family Bruynzeel

Mayors necklace - 1956 / Boys bedroom family Bruynzeel - 1920

When I got to the museum I still had half an hour until closing time. The two and a half hour travel turned out to be four and a half hours. Fortunately this was enough to see the exhibition about Vilmos Huszar and even get a private tour by a guide. The exhibition was divided in three rooms, all showing many different artworks of Vilmos Huszar. The exhibition focused especially on the works he made after he left de Stijl. Some of the artworks exhibited were never shown to a public before. Even though he stopped making artworks in the style of de Stijl, I could find small details in his paintings like a red straight line. 

A seated lady - 1932-1933

A seated lady - 1932-1933

When walking back to the station I realized Harderwijk was actually a very cozy city (yes it’s a city). It apparently has a beach and it was once a craft city, before 1955 it was a nice fisherman’s town at the open Zuider Zee. The people were very kind and helpful. I would recommend a small visit to Harderwijk to everyone. I suppose Vilmos Huszar lived near Harderwijk because it was a more peaceful place than The Hague, which might have inspired him. When I got in the train to go back to Arnhem I saw an old man waving to the train. Harderwijk is the city where Dutch children visit their grandparents for a few days and then wave each other goodbye at the train station. I was told Harderwijk was the end of the world, a place where you wouldn’t want to be found either dead or alive and that it had a great coffee shop. I believed it but now I know it’s not the end of the world.  

Harderwijk view

Harderwijk view

After Huszar left De Stijl he got many commercial art requests from C. Bruynzeel and Miss Blanche. He made many artworks in different styles, often with small details referring to De Stijl. He would for instance put a red line in a realistic painting. In December 1939 he and his wife Jeanne moved to Hierden, a small village near Harderwijk, because of the war danger. Here he had the chance to go on with making art. During the war he was active in the resistance Migchelsen. In 1945 Jeanne died and not even one month later he got together with his housemaid Anke van der Steen with who he got married in 1953. Jeanne’s parents were very rich, but after her death Huszar was left with only his atelier. Anke, Vilmos and his kid moved to the atelier. They were very poor so Huszar started trading art for basic needs. For instance the still life of a bottle of Hollandia Water to his housemaid.

still life with bottle of Hollandia water 1946-1947

Still life with bottle of Hollandia water - 1946-1947

In the last few years of his life he went back to painting like he did when he was still in De Stijl. On 8 September 1960 Vilmos Huszar passed away in Harderwijk.

a cooperative research by Athena Potamianos & Justine Wesselo

In with the out


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

We questioned ourselves on this new ideology De Stijl was confronting itself with in the early 1920s. One of them being the notion of inside and outside in architecture. As we found out by researching aspects of the Stijl after viewing the exhibition « Architects and Interiors » in the Gemeentemuseum of the Hague, there is a significant new way of looking at architecture in that period of time. Architects wanted a style that was more connected with their own time and ideology, traditional architectural rules were no longer significant. When we look at the scale models of the Maison d’Artiste by Theo Van Doesburg and Cor van Eesteren , designed in 1923, we can see the transition of walls that flow from inside to the outside. Trying to dissolve lines but also creating a way to incorporate the outside into the building. An interesting factor at the time was the creation of big windows and the opening up of space, which created a deeper connection to the exterior. Another example from around the same time is the Schindler House built in 1922 in Hollywood. By creating a massive wall that can be opened up between the garden and the living room, Rudolph M.Schindler created a space that can connect the inside with the outside.

Schindler house

Schindler House

Our next lead took us to the Case Study House project (1945-1966). A project consisting of 36 planned houses that were published in the Los Angeles based Arts & Architecture magazine. After the second world war there was an advance in technology and material. Architects worked together with the magazine to create new ways of seeing and constructing liveable homes during the population boom at the time. Even though not all houses were actually build, these plans were a hot topic among American architects. These houses were characterised by flat roofs, glass walls, modular design and steel frame construction. They neatly integrated into the sites with an emphasis on indoor-outdoor living. One of the first examples that can indicate a fusion of inside and outside is the plans for the Greenbelt house, where the architect tried to create an open space in the middle of the house that could be used as a place to store crops and other vegetation. Another project is the #21 case study by Koenig, where an irrigation system that surrounds the steel construction helps cool off the house itself. The design emphasise harmony of materials and balance between interior and exterior through the use of terraces, water, glazing, and skylights. Many more of these projects were about the connecting and fusing of the outside with the inside. Elizabeth Smith, Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, talks about this combining of inside and outside elaborately among other subjects in this lecture.

Case Study House #21 by Pierre Koenig

Case Study House #2, Pierre Koenig

 

If we look back in time, structures that connect the inside with the outside have already existed for a long time. We can take the example of the engawa in Japan, having the entire house surrounded by a ledge and being able to open up all doors and windows creates a connection between inside and outside. Recreating these structures and ideas. It’s almost like there was a necessity to be out in the open again in the 1900s and after. Today we can still find traces and marks of this ideology strongly present all around us in our contemporary world. What is being outside? What is being inside?

The Japanese Engage

The Japanese Engawa

In recent architecture we can find a lot of traces leading back to this ideology of bringing outside and inside together. Big windows for example are still a highly used aspect in a lot of houses. However, not all modern houses really look into the effect of this blending of an outside and inside. And there also seems to be a genuine difference in houses that have the the possibility of indoor and outdoor blending and houses that are created for the soul purpose of bringing the outside inside continually.

Let’s compare this difference by first looking at the OZ House by Andrade Morettin Arquitetos Associados. The house is made, similar to some of the Case Study Houses, out of a concrete framing that holds the big windows and walls. The south facade of the house made of glass opens up all interior areas allowing it’s openness to the views of the surrounding vegetation. It has the possibility of creating an outdoor/indoor connection by opening the doors, so it may or may not use it’s features. This way you are not limited by the outside forces, they can be ignored by isolating the house from them (closing the connection).

OZ house by Andrade

OZ house, Andrade Morettin Arquitetos

 

Inside Out by Takeshi Hosaka

Inside Out, Takeshi Hosaka

A great example of a house that tries to bring the outside in continually is the Inside Out building by Takeshi Hosaka. Intended to create a house for two cats and a human couple, the house was not focused on the human perspective alone. In this house there is only a few spaces that are able to be closed off to the outside, the rest of the building is open and connected to the wind, rain and sun. The ones living in the house have to adapt and live with these weather conditions and live accordingly. So in this example the outside has taken it’s place as a constant force inside of the building. The occupants have only one room (the living room) that they are able to control. Another less extreme house that takes the outside in is Casa Ilhabela by Studio MK27. By creating privacy around the house using walls and plants, they created a situation where they were able to take out the walls of the lower level and create one big space that is inside and outside. This space is a living room, but also a garden area. Having some outside forces, predominantly temperature and weather, continually coming through the living room makes this another example of a house that is bound to the outside. However on the first floor of the building, there are bamboo shutters in front of the balcony areas that can be opened up. Together with a pair of doors that can also open up the first floor to the outside. Having the possibility to also have an outside/inside connected space on the first floor. This house is balanced between the concept of a continuous outside in the inside and a possible outside in the inside.

Designers, architects and artists are also questioning the idea of bringing the outside indoor by bringing the nature into the interior space, incorporating scenes of nature. This transition with the natural world blur the lines and barriers between inside and out.  Bringing trees and other elements of nature inside, these projects question what is possible within the confines of erected walls. The artist Jean-Marc Navez incorporates trees that reach the ceiling and occupy the whole space to underline the bringing of outside into an indoor space. Through the incorporation of indoor trees the divisions between the home, office, landscape and environment are blurred.

Jean-Marc Navez

Silène, Jean-Marc Navez, 1984

 

Up to now this article has been about building houses and bringing whatever is outside of those buildings inside. But there are also lots of houses that are build to be enveloped by nature, by building into already existing structures like mountains, hills and trees. These give you a feeling of literally living in the outside. Some of these houses also have the ability to use their natural structure to create effects in the inside of the house. Sometimes they can control warmth or certain weather effects. For example earth sheltered homes like the Icelandic turf houses, are build into a hill to ward off cold winds. They also use turf to build thick layered walls that can keep the warmth inside. This technique of holding warmth is a great example of how to be sustainable.

Icelandic Turf house

Icelandic Turf house

This aspect of sustainability and our carbon footprint are quite popular and important in our most recent history. From this thinking comes a new way of creating houses, so called eco-houses. Here is a small video about an eco-house build by a couple in Norway. As you can see in the video, a lot of these houses can generate warmth and energy by themselves and leave almost no negative traces. A few of these new houses even have the ability to sustain growth of plants. By doing so the house itself is creating a connection between itself and the outside. Mostly build out of natural and renewable materials, they shape the way we look at modern constructing and living. A great example of a material used in a new experimental way is the mushroom that they used to make bricks for the Hy-fi construction of David Benjamins. Having bricks made of mushrooms that can be grown in 5 days, but that can also be easily composted afterwards is a very nature friendly and innovative approach to constructing. It shows us a glimpse of what we might be able to use in future construction of buildings.

Hy-fi by David Benjamin

Hy-fi, David Benjamin

Thinking about these concepts of sustainability and carbon footprints we also come across another question. Should we think about our plants and animals? Recent architects have been busy thinking of ways to incorporate the outside forces but are now also busy finding ways to cooperate with the life around us. One of the bigger projects that used this way of thinking is that of the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. A project based on two major elements: human involvement and stimulating nature. One of the keys to this project were the supertrees. A number of man made trees that stimulate the growth of plants on them. Even though this is not about housing it shows us a new perspective and way of looking at construction.

Supertrees of the Gardens By The Bay project

Supertrees of the Gardens By The Bay project

 

So how will we adapt to new ideologies in the future?

Will we see self-growing houses or constructions that don’t depend on traditional aspects like walls and floors? Structures that blend the inside into the outside? Blend man-made with natural? In this technological era we might be able to control all these aspects of living a bit more and we have a broader understanding of the outside forces. But as nature is always changing, it’s still not certain if we will be able to control the outside. And if so be truly able to create an outside environment that is at the same time our inside.

a cooperative research by Billy Jansen and Chiara Moscatelli


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