Illustrating architecture: the spatio-temporal dimension of Gerrit Rietveld's representations of the Schröder House

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Architecture, 2017, 22 (5), pp. 899 - 932
Issue Date:
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© 2013 The Journal of Architecture. This paper examines two axonometric projections by Gerrit Rietveld that portray the house designed for and in collaboration with Truus Schröder-Schräder.1 Utilising specific attributes of the technique of the axonometric, Rietveld developed concepts of architecture that were both abstract and yet contingent on architecture's material requirements and its function as habitation. Rather than using text to explain the ideas behind the house Rietveld chose drawing, and more specifically the technique of the axonometric, to characterise complex strategies that were fundamental to its distinctive architectural concepts.2 Axonometric techniques, in maintaining dimensional accuracy, can provide an understanding of architectural design that, unlike perspective or photography, avoids placing the viewer's experience as the privileged interpretive paradigm.3 For Rietveld, illustration clearly situated his expectations for architecture's signification beyond its physical presence. His exploration of architecture's potential through the axonometric could also have been influenced by his reaction to popular theories coming from ‘scientific’ explorations of perceptual space and to artists like Piet Mondrian who had criticised architecture for its inability to come to terms with ‘new representation’.4 These two Rietveld illustrations provoke specific understandings of architecture by privileging the abstract conceptual relationships that can be developed between spatial and auxiliary domestic elements of a dwelling. For the discipline of architecture, Rietveld provided an alternative concept for architecture based scientifically on a system of logical equivalency. For architecture this suggested a correlation formed between abstract geometries of form with the contingencies of material habitation.
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