Published in 


Thoth Publishers, 2008

In the late 1950’s Gerrit Rietveld was commissioned to design a modernist, suburban paradise on the outskirts of Utrecht, The Netherlands. The management companies originally wanted architect J. J. P. Oud to do the job, but thankfully Oud convinced them that the “young” Mr. Rietveld was quite capable of designing the 194 rental dwellings by himself, with Oud as an uncredited “supervisor”.

The resulting new neighborhood was a success. When the blue-collar tenants moved in to their new apartments they enjoyed a plethora of modern conveniences (hot water! showers! laundry spaces! ventilated kitchens!) which had mostly been out of their reach so far.In addition, their daily activities now took place in a typical Rietveldian space, filled with air and light, clean lines, and some of the clever traits of the Rietveld Schröder House in that same city, such as sliding walls and multi-functionional built-ins—albeit on a more modest scale.

The entire complex was recently extensively renovated, from each interior to all the public spaces, under the supervision of Bertus Mulder, who was Rietveld’s right hand man for many years. To celebrate the occasion, the current management company, Bo-Ex (who previously restored other Rietveld projects), commissioned Dutch photographer Elsbeth Struijk van Bergen to document Robijnhof 13, the dwelling which has, post-renovation, become the project’s museum apartment. Thanks to Robijnhof 13, which has been completely restored to its original state and was furnished with period-authentic Pastoe and Rietveld furniture, we can see what Rietveld envisioned, even though we look at it 50 years after the first inhabitants moved in. Elsbeth applied her usual sense of hyper-deliberate composition to the photographs. She was asked to photograph modern people in the museum apartment, and to emphasize its timeless lines and functionality, rather then focus on its “retro” qualities.To quote from the accompanying publication, “Rietvelds Robijnhof” , about Elsbeth’s series: “The space and the human characters engage in an interaction that frees the apartment from the (art)historical context, revealing its intrinsical values.”

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