Canal in Central Amsterdam
Sunday, October 10
On a high-speed train returning to Paris after 4 days in Holland. Arriving at Rotterdam now, one of 3 stops on this route between Amsterdam and Paris, including Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium. The Netherlands excursion pushes out a planned Scandinavian trip to the 14th (of which the first leg is by air), due to a connection made in Paris with Camilla, who was traveling to A’dam as well before returning home to Washington, DC. Camilla recognized an English voice speaking to Faty (my landlord) in Faty’s internet shop in Paris, and introduced herself. A meeting for coffee was arranged at Pompidou Center a couple of days later, then dinner at a cous cous place with she and Aicha, a friend of hers also from the US, but living in Paris for many years. The two knew each other some years back when Camilla lived in Paris and they were part of a group of African-American ex-pats in Paris called ‘Sisters’. It was the first time in Amsterdam for us both, Camilla having arrived by air a couple of days ahead of me. She was there to visit Lisa, a childhood friend from New York now living in Amsterdam. Having one or two people to hang with on excursions like this is a huge plus, especially with ones familiar with a place.
Dinner Party In Amsterdam
Residences and Boathouses Along a Canal, Amsterdam
Hilversum Town Hall (1931) Photography by D. Franklin - 10/09/2010
Pond at Town Hall Complex
The second full day in the Netherlands and third overall was spent in research I guess, but was not really work at all. I took trains to Hilversum and Utrecht to see Willem Dudok’s Hilversum Town Hall (1931), and Gerrit Rietveld’s Schroder House (1924, Utrecht). The towns are on separate lines from Amsterdam, but I was able to book a round trip from A’dam to Hilversum first, then to Utrecht, and back to A’dam. Each leg was about 20-25 minutes, separated by the time spent in each town.
Hilversum Town Hall
Secondary Structure at Town Hall Complex
Roof Extensions at Courtyard Portal
Cafe Dudok, Hilversum
Dudok Centrum (Street), Hilversum, The netherlands
Photography by D. Franklin - 10/09/2010
Schroder House - Utrecht, 1924
After several hours in Hilversum (which aside from its beautiful neighborhoods, open-air market, and its remarkable landmark town hall building, seems fairly non-descript), I caught a train to Utrecht. I had imagined this to be a gray, worn, industrial city of aging factories from where youths fled to Amsterdam or someplace. Instead I found a vibrant, thriving city of markets, cathedrals, narrow passageways filled with shops and restaurants, medieval towers, grand parks, and probably more bicycles per capita than Amsterdam. I was there to see Rietveld’s 1924 Schroder House, so named for its original owners. Hoping to get some decent photos before the sun disappeared, I grabbed a taxi from Utrecht Centraal Train Station to the site, which was about 10 minutes and 12 Euros away. I’d recently seen photos of the house and noticed that unlike my impressions from arch school, the building appeared to have been constructed against the end of a block of historic rowhouses. Upon seeing this to be the case, I imagined how the town’s historicists and purists must have reacted as the plans were presented. Schroder House is in stark contrast to its immediately neighboring buildings and represents an in-your-face gesture to the Bauhaus and De Stijl Schools at a time when fascist eschewing of the growing modernist movements must have just been brewing. An outgrowth of the Bauhaus movement was that of De Stijl, or ‘the style’, as much an art as architecture movement, and which had as its key principles the use of ninety-degree compositional elements, primary colors with black and white, and stark asymmetrical form. Early proponents of De Stijl in art included Theo Van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian, whose two-dimensional compositions seem to have been translated by Rietveld into three-dimensions in the form of Schroder House. Like the Hilversum Town Hall, Schroder House is well-proportioned, and while the scaling of its own elements are very much in keeping with its proportions, the structure as a whole appears starkly out of context and scale to its surroundings. You get the sense that this was not lost on Rietveld and that the building’s scale (and flat roof) juxtaposed literally against its neighboring 3-story dark brick rowhouses with pitched tile roofs was a statement of architectural defiance. Hidden on the other side of a viaduct one lot away from Schroder house is a complex of newer structures in the international style, part of which houses a ticket office for tours of Schroder House and a museum of sorts offering video screenings, gifts, and a display of miniature Rietveld-designed furniture gifted to the conservancy as a gift by their creator.
Schroder House, Utrecht
Juxtaposition of 2-story 1924 Schroder House Against 3-story
Schroder House, Side View
I arrived back in Amsterdam at about 8:30, wandered the streets looking for the city’s infamous Red Light District (you know, just looking), but instead ended up at the Alto Jazz Café, a place I’d researched before leaving the U.S., and that had only a 5 Euro cover that night. By this point I had enough of a sense of the streetcar system to find my way back to the Hotel Linda before midnight.