Constructed in 1924, the Rietveld Schroder House stood out from its neighbourhood with its radical design. Even looking at the project today, the novelty in its modular design, its bold color scheme, and its transformability through the use of collapsible partition walls still serve as great inspirations in today's standards. The purpose of this article is to attempt to analyse the Rietveld Schroder House through original diagrams. To be more specific, the planimetric diagram intends to reveal the mathematically calculated dimensions of the rooms, the sectional diagram analyzes the program of the first floor by categorizing the spaces into three tiers (public, private, and circulatory,) last but not least, the axonometric diagram examines the trademark ‘transformability’ of the Schroder house, as it juxtaposes the two distinct spatial sequences on the second floor as the owner chooses to either collapse or install the walls.
The planimetric (related to plan) diagram looks at the geometrical proportions of the rooms on the second floor of the Schroder house. Rotated at 45-degree angles, the two colored plan drawings each represent rooms that qualify a particular set of dimensions. At the lower level, the various intensities of blue signify all the rooms whose length and width are at golden ratio (1:1.618.) At the top tier, the various shades of red represent all the rooms whose dimensions are perfect squares (width = length.) Judging from this diagram, it is very clear how heavily the architect, Gerrit Rietveld, relied on the geometrical aesthetic principles to facilitate his design. There’s little surprise that the De Stijl art style to which Rietveld and the house’s patron, Mrs Schroder were strong proponents, also puts heavy emphasis on geometrical proportions. To pay homage to the De Stijl art style, the diagrams featured in this article all adopt vibrant (primary) colors, and are framed with bold black borders.
The sectional diagram studies the programs on the first floor. Delineating the form of the house are three section cuts sheared at 45-degree angles. As aforementioned, the purpose of this diagram is to ‘rank’ the ‘accessibility’ of the rooms on the first floor. To achieve this, a color code of yellow, blue, and red is adopted: the spaces labelled in yellow represent circulation spaces (stairwell, corridor, etc,) whereas blue signifies rooms that can be accessed from more than one entrance. Lastly, red spaces indicate the rooms that are relatively ‘private,’ these include the maiden’s room (which later became Mrs Schroder’s bedroom,) the architect Gerrit Rietveld’s studio (originally intended as a garage,) and the bathroom. The representations of the rooms are also sheared at 45-degree angles so that the bottom of this diagram reads as an oblique drawing for the first floor. Unlike the planimetric or the axonometric diagram where different states are superimposed to represent the transformable nature of the second floor, the sectional diagram is one single static entity, because of the immutability of the first floor of the Schroder house.
The purpose of the axonometric diagram is to discuss the mutability of the program on the second floor. Since the collapsible partitioning walls offer two distinct spatial layouts, this diagram superimposes the two scenarios to provide a more intuitive comparison. On the top tier is the scenario when all the partitioning walls are collapsed. The end result is a massive open space that is only interrupted by the bathroom ( labelled in red,) and the stairwell (in yellow.) On the lower tier, we have a situation where all the walls are put into place. In this case, we have three relatively ‘private’ rooms, and the prior, giant open space is now reduced to the corner of the second floor. In terms of the aesthetics of this diagram, bold black is used to represent the vertical wall slabs. The idea is to pay tribute to Rietveld’s famous red and blue chair. If one could interpret the design of the chair as a 3-dimensional representation of a Mondrian painting (red, yellow, and blue forms resting on black frames,) then my contention is that the Schroder house is a 4-dimensional representation of a Mondrian painting, because it takes into account the factor of ‘time,’ signified by the movement of the partitioning walls.
With its bold choice of color, and its mutability which is way ahead of its time, the Rietveld Schroder House is one of my favorite small residence designs. Hopefully I have communicated some of the reasons why it fascinates me through the three original diagrams. However, due to technical difficulties regarding load bearing, the project’s ‘transformability’ only applies to the second floor. Consequently, in our next blog post, we will be discussing my fantasy of extending the concept of transformability to the static, immutable first floor.