Gerrit Rietveld’s “New Functionalism in Dutch Architecture” (1932)

Translated from the Dutch by Marijke Küper, in Gerrit Rietveld:

The Complete Works.  (Princeton University Press.  New York, NY: 1992).

• • •

The new functionalism in Dutch architecture is no different from that of other countries; when people talk about ‘international architecture’ there, they mean the same thing.

I was asked to discuss Dutch architecture; I have used the opportunity to provide a general survey of the program of the new architecture.

At the annual Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne [CIAM], whose president is a Dutchman, typical differences of attitude have emerged that, considerable though they may be, have not detracted from the international character of the movement.

I

After the age of period imitations that led to a widespread enthusiasm for craftsmanship, people began to feel a need for truth.  This was the original impulse for the renewal of architecture in Holland (Berlage), a renewal that has served us as a foundation.

Some failed attempts at innovation had already been made, but these failed because they came too early, the professional skills not yet being available and people themselves not yet being ready for them.  Even the so-called Jugendstil was not able to stay the course.  Solid and reliable craftsmen were not able to adapt rapidly enough to such a free approach, while other architects and laymen, even though they saw that things had to change, may have had too playful an approach to their work for it to be taken seriously.  The flower patterns, the weak forms and lines were greeted with disdain — which, on the whole, was quite unfair.  Then as now, we realized that we are not capable of assimilating what is good all at once, and if so, that we are unable to exploit it directly; that we have to raise our sights, both individually and in our profession, to be able to see what is good and that we have to have the patience and stamina to wait and see whether it is viable in our day.

The history of the new functionalism in architecture is essentially the history of the renewal process in individual architects and their profession.  Instead of looking to Baroque styles, people harked back to periods that showed health.  People no longer imitated other styles, but discovered examples of an honest use of materials and of monumental forms.  Honesty also consisted in allowing the construction to be seen.  Plenty of solid work was done in those years; it was time for taking stock.  Seen from the vantage point of our own period the results still appear to be dominated by form.  A strongly expressed attitude to life was also considered important — plenty of philosophizing went on in those days.  Even the way in which life was commented on in architecture was dominated by form.  By this I mean that the form of the stone volumes that they built was so important that it was all they thought about; also the honesty that was aimed for did not go much further than omitting plasterwork and finishes and allowing joints, joining seams, mortice bolts, nails, unworked iron, and rough stone to remain visible.

Architecture was to reintroduce the unity of the visual arts.  Mural work and sculpture again became a part of architecture.  The collaboration with artists in other disciplines was nothing particularly new; both in the age of period imitations as in that of the traditional styles this was regular practice.  In itself it had nothing to do with the renewal of architecture; the approach to collaboration in this period, however, and the caliber of the artists involved, compels us to see this time as being the beginning of the new art of interior design.

Artists who had originally worked completely independently (we will see later on that this will always be the only possibility) submitted for a while to the demands of surfaces and constructional elements of architecture.  Sculptors devised motifs for the heads of columns and arches; reliefs of the same character as the sculptural-structural stone friezes.  Tiles were also used for this purpose and there was even sculpture introduced into the brickwork.  Painters who were skilled in making tile-tableaux and paintings on plaster were given whole walls to cover; the important thing in all this was to make work that was an expression of truth and authenticity.

I can still remember one phase of this development — a discussion with an artist of that period, which resulted in the perception that ornamentation should not just be applied, but that the building or object had to be, as it were, a single huge organic form, the ornament being a mere detail of this whole.  [34] By giving things organic form people tried to make them part of daily life — there have been various attempts at this.

In addition to the constructional style, a type of architecture developed that was a little less concerned with the truth and somewhat more with life.  With this I mean the so-called Amsterdam school, that has still not quite ceased to exist.  This trend has done us a great service in that it aimed to realize something of Jugendstil.  After the death of their great predecessor, the architect De Klerk, people soon ended up with sculptural forms.

Of the ideas that had a genuine architectural function, and which, because of their old-fashioned brick constructions, gave an impression of being heavy sculptural volumes, only the outward appearance was retained; they were presented as the style and the fashion of that age.  This had plenty of consequences; it was a frequent pretext for artifice in all the trades that have always developed around architecture.  The activity of the planning authorities ensured that nothing happened in housing except new façades (with which we are still stuck).  These bodies were to blame; it would not have been such a great mistake, however, if they had only taken the trouble to see that these façades did not just make the street look pretty, but were also suited to houses that were fit to live in.

We learned during this period how difficult it is to let things have the place that belongs to them.

If the essential character of a thing were not indestructible, if the house that every effort had been made to transform was not also in a way very convenient for living in, we would never have come back to the right path again.  People knew as well then as we do now, that a house is for living in; why then did we worry so much about shapes? How could the domination of form end up in the current sober solutions?

First of all we have been strongly influenced by the American architect, [Frank] Lloyd Wright.  Eventually we went back to basics.  It started with small things.  Some people replaced emphatically shaped furniture with simple boxes.  Something that on a large scale would have been impossible to handle and which in any case no contracts were given for was first achieved on a small scale.  Furniture and interiors were turned into a practicing field.  How many victims were due to these experiments can easily be imagined.

If one worked as an architect in the same city for a long time, one’s good name was no longer worth anything.  Personally I still feel very guilty towards many people, whose outlook in this respect was not sufficiently broad to see that all this was necessary as a transitional stage or else who took no pleasure in the situation.

We should not be surprised if people continue to fear the new, even now when architecture has for a long time acquired sounder foundations.  Once a Dutchman has paid his lecture fees, his attitude is usually fixed for life.  Luckily there are always people who remain open-minded and make it possible to go on working.  It is a striking fact that it is not always the best professionals in a field who make the new discoverie; they may not even be on the lookout for anything new.

Laymen clients have achieved much more in this respect.  Without being familiar with the profession and all the difficulties associated with it, they have always corrected, criticized, and suggested directions that pointed towards life.

Architects, painters, and sculptors have begun to define their own field very precisely.  The painters gave us nothing but color, completely flat and primary.  Sculptors began with a cube and slowly began to explore other shapes.  The architect was left in charge of space — he attempted to define this in such a way that comparable spaces were obtained both inside and out.  The De Stijl group.  It was clear that the materials and their forms still belonged to sculpture, that the light-reflecting surfaces of walls were the painter’s domain; the architect was left with nothing but empty space.  His only concern was its character and its impact on the people inside, on top of or around it.

I deliberately avoid mentioning the social changes that have always occurred parallel to renewals in architecture; I do this first of all because these changes cannot simply be treated as incidental events and in the second place because my subject is architecture and I want to treat it in entirely architectural terms.  These terms however are always affected by social requirements.

For architecture this means that the general has priority over the personal — standardization, building and development possibilities in general, the question of the flow of traffic, mass-production, and so on, as far as communal things are concerned.  Apart from this, one can turn one’s mind to the free development of the personal element; this is something we will deal with later on.  These things are not so easily implemented socially speaking, even if people are convinced of their necessity.

Our profession is a society in miniature and similarly it is very much stuck in certain ways of working, rules and regulations, notions of reliability and, above all, the limited range of architecture itself.  Nobody was equal to the renewal in its entirety; they always got bogged down in the details.  Unless we traced everything back to its origins, it was beyond our power.

Painters and sculptors and architects have all approached their task in very abstract terms.  The architects have made spaces that are utterly sterile, not having a clear concept of what was to be done with them.  ‘Purity’ was their highest value.  Their goal was an unattainable purity; people made use exclusively of primary forms and colors, because they were unable to cope with all the other ones.  The most important thing that has been achieved is an appreciation of the concept of ‘emptiness’ that for so long was scoffed at and equated with poverty.

Instead of making life easier, they have got rid of everything that reminded us of life.  One might explain this by arguing that [35] people made buildings not for life as it was, but more for life as people imagined it ought to become.

Even though their spaces were unpractical in layout and furnishings and not easy to live in, and though quite a few sacrifices were required of the occupants, they have still achieved their exact aim: after so many hardships the genuine new life with its new demands has developed in these spaces: through complete negation it freed itself from the originally insurmountable conventions.

II

To recognize and satisfy the new demands for housing, to make this new life comfortable and untrammeled: architects would not so quickly have seen this as their task, had they not been open to the influence of the Dadaists, who mocked the sterility of art, which appeared to be so far removed from life.

The work of the Dadaists betrays a lively and witty temperament.  They had a sure feeling for what was natural, logical, and honest.  Not accepting the consequences of their own insights, and not bothering or wanting to bother about the difficulties in the way of promoting the correct values and therefore never distracted, they were all the more capable of exposing faults.

The work of the Dadaists of course was not taken seriously, because in many respects they chose the easy way.  Even so, the young artists of that time deserve respect because, no matter what it cost, they were prepared to break with their mistakes to achieve clarity.

The appearance of machines also contributed a great deal towards turning the form-question into a life-question.  Machines, which had already had an opportunity in the quest for honesty, found in the new style the straight-lined and simple forms that were appropriate for mass-production.  Technology that was accustomed to fitting in with predetermined forms, could now present its own shapes that were the result of construction work and factory production.  Form was no longer an obstacle.  At last it was possible for us to concentrate fully on making houses that would be pleasant to live in.  One of the first people to argue for avoiding predetermined forms in architecture was the architect Oud.  I am sure that if we ever achieve a correct program for the activity of the functionalist architects, it will be better, at least for the time being, not to bother about art.  We should however never forget that our advanced insight would not have been so clear without the unswervingly critical, self-renewing energy of art.  Even if art has become irrelevant to architecture at present, we can be sure that every time it is called for, it will be art that provides the spark of innovation in a system that so easily lapses into rigidity.

During the world war a great deal of experimentation took place in Holland; at the same time, in France, the brilliant Le Corbusier, has worked and produced writings with the aim of replacing a worn-out romanticism with new life.  He began completing many private contracts with an ease and genius that has astonished everybody.

Since the world war thousands of German architects have visited Holland; the technologically minded Germans saw at once that the functional character that was the main feature of the new architecture was very suitable for the rebuilding of Germany.  What we would have been so happy to have built here has been realized on a vast scale there, not just by private contractors but also by the state and by local councils.  I will mention just one example: the new development in Frankfurt [by Ernst May], that has become renowned throughout the world as a model of town planning.  The architecture of this project was a feat of advanced technology and this has meant that the German neue Sachlichkeit has become an example for the whole world, something, in my opinion, that it never was before.

Not only in Holand, but in Austria and France (and maybe Japan and Russia, currently very much influenced by Germany, will soon follow), people now see very clearly that the German program for a new functionalism is much too narrow, uncompromising, and lacking in flexibility.

Most of this work is now experienced as technological fanaticism; another part is regarded as a fashionable fad and the rest as a genuine solution for the housing problem (minimum dwelling, shared kitchen, district heating, launderette); it can then, in part, be described as ‘befreites wohnen’ (liberated living).  It is this part, however, that is too much linked to special circumstances to mean freedom for us.

In Vienna there is at the moment a large international exhibition of 70 furnished dwellings.  About 25 Austrian and five foreign architects were left entirely free to produce what they wanted.  The city of Vienna and the Austrian Werkbund carried out a large-scale promotion of the new architecture.

The program of the new functionalism is as follows: to determine scientifically the correct requirements for good housing; to ascertain the best systems for insulation, absorbtion, reflection, drainage, etc., including all these aspects in the construction of a single operation; and, finally, to industrialize the as yet primitive activities on construction sites.

A special commission, seeking advice from specialists in hygiene, chemists, doctors, psychologists, etc.,  will be responsible for ascertaining what are the essential requirements of good housing.

Industrialization is necessary both for the new organization of labor (the work that was begun by A has to be taken over by B some hours later) as well as for the improvement of the quality of the work.  The attempt to achieve a new functionalism is not an attempt to attain a predetermined goal; it is not, in fact, an ‘ism’ or an ideal; it is simply architecture sticking to its own function.

The new functionalism in architecture is something quite different from the current notion of business efficiency.  For [36] instance, if a modern architect installs central heating and a hot-water system, instead of providing ornaments for the façade and interior of a house, this may mean new functionalism; but if a client wants to measure the value of a house on the basis of the number of radiators, washbasins, or cupboards, this is perhaps just being businesslike; it certainly is not what we mean by ‘new functionalism.’  It is businesslike to demand value for money, and the term ‘new functionalism’ does include a notion of efficiency; but the term on the whole denotes a quite different value.  It comes down to whether one is giving more room to one’s life or less.

The shelter a house should offer, its essential function, means no more than that it should shut out the undesirable influences of nature while at the same time being as open as possible to those influences that are desirable.  In a word, professionalism means: to be able to determine scientifically, 1.  what are the elements that one cannot do without; 2.  what materials and structures are essential for the economical delineation of a space that is conceived in these terms.

It is not a matter of stone, glass, iron, or of their shapes, nor of monumentality or beauty or imposing structures; nor does it have to do with what it stands for, that is, the attitude towards life implied in it; nor is it even a question of showing its interior at the outside.  It is a matter of the proportions and quality of the emptiness around, in between, or on top of the materials that are used.  Architecture where the outward appearance is influenced by considerations of beauty, is never effective architecturally speaking, but only in a plastic sense.  What I mean is that even the beauty that was intended is not attained, because plasticity is not what is required in architecture.

Architecture that is nothing more than the elements that are essential for defining the space it creates, may be beautiful, monumental, or imposing, but it will always work as architecture.

III

Functionalism, which is almost a synonym for necessity, is not what some people think: a sort of impoverishment or austerity, the omission of everything that is thought to be attractive and pleasing.

It is a question of the right attitude.  Anyone who thinks that it is an attitude of being content with less based only on economic need or idleness has not really grasped our purpose.  It should rather be thought of as eliminating everything that is superfluous.  This is also what the word means in a social sense: it is a sort of spatial hygiene.  I will discuss this in more detail later.  Of course, promoting the new functional architecture would be inconceivable without what is called town planning; this does not mean that the conglomerations which we now refer to as cities ought to be maintained.  It is impossible to convert an old city into a new one.  Just as a firm needs to be organized in an economically effective way, society will also have to be regulated on a sound economic basis.  All general necessities will have to be dealt with collectively; all personal needs that are not a threat to society, should be tampered with as little as possible.  Anyone will appreciate that a dwelling in a highly organized city will have a completely different function from our own individual houses.  When the functions have been ascertained, the resulting measurements will quite definitely not be a matter of aesthetics; this, however, does not mean that a city like this cannot be very beautiful.

One example will serve to show what I mean: anyone who knows anything about the laws of perspective knows that everything that is viewed from a certain distance will be subject to these laws, even if no attention is paid to them during construction.  On reflection, a street, a road, a bridge, an orchard — everything, in short — will comply with the laws of perspective that it cost so much ingenuity to discover.  Of course this will be clearer in some cases than in others.  The same is true of beauty.  The greatest mistake one can make in aesthetics is to try to make something beautiful by following aesthetic laws.

We would do better to inform ourselves of the essential character of a thing and then to see that no superfluous elements start to dominate and get in the way of our intentions.  If living in a tent and a camp is more attractive than in a house on a street in a city, this suggests there must be something wrong with architecture as it is.  It is not always because people have less work to do outdoors.  It is simpler there; more primitive certainly, but often less superfluous than at home.

Mistakes in architecture sometimes come from inexperience; much more frequently they are the result of na abuse of professional skills.  Architecture is a highly demanding profession; mistakes are dangerous; a variety of calculations are made, especially financial ones.  A variety of technical skills are drawn on and yet too little attention is paid to whether the house is actually fit to live in.

If you were to read the regulation for, let’s say, the thickness of walls in the building code, your hair would stand on end.  These walls are placed between people and people, between people and the woods, the sea and the sun.  Separate laws apply between such walls.

Fortunately there is always a reverse to the mistakes made in architecture (except ones of construction).  A section of a building or a situation that we have not completely analyzed at the design stage, will never be rectified in the construction just by accident; no, one cannot forget anything without having to pay a price for it; but even so there is always some advantage one can weigh against it.  Even a house made with the only aim of making money proves in the end to be fit to live in to some degree.

Of course, the reverse is also true: what we want to achieve will also never turn out exactly as we had planned, because [37] there are always small factors, not so much in the construction or the building process, but fators in our initial estimate, in our evaluation of the use of the building, that we did not know of beforehand and which will be different again the next time round.

Being at home has become a universally accepted notion.  Feeling at home is something that is not subject to logic.  What is new is usually only admitted when nothing has to be sacrificed of the old surroundings that one was used to.

This means that a house is a complicated thing.

The slogan: befreites wohnen sums up the goal of present-day architecture perfectly:

freedom from unnecessary work;

freedom from unnecessary visual elements.

The expression ‘functional architecture’ is related to the expression ‘befreites wohnen.’

It is not yet generally known that one does not need heavy stone volumes to insulate a house or a large work space such as a factory.  We still have not put the monumental period behind us.

The factory built by the architects Brinkman and Van der Vlugt in Rotterdam remains to this day the best building in Holland in the new functionalist style.  It is no accident that the construction of this building was carried out in full partnership with the clients.  First of all, any experiments that did not work out were replaced with better products — something that cost a great deal of money.  More important, however, is the fact that the company’s organization was in complete agreement with the architecture and remained so after it was put into operation.  The building is unusual in that it is not in fact a single entity determining everything, and containing all the different sections (the machines, the employees, etc.); this building is only a shelter, floor, roof, and installation system to serve the company.  In this architecture the company remains the most important consideration.  This is the building’s most beautiful and essential achievement; it was because its pretensions were so modest that the building has become so famous throughout the world.  Of course one should point out other good examples; it has nothing to do with size.  I chose this building as an example, because its proportions convey its message so clearly.

The dimension of space is the essential component of architecture.  Architecture should have as little outward appearance as possible.  This is in contrast with monumental architecture (I do not include those periods that are stylistically interesting here) that is material and forms of material both inside and out.

Outward form is what characterizes sculpture; the plastic dimension is good and beautiful in itself, but is not applicable to architecture.

The greatest change that architecture has gone through in recent times has been its liberation, its separation from the plastic dimension.  The latter encircles itself.  Architecture becomes an environment and nothing more.  The result is that architecture has become less weighty; but at the same time it is much more functional and human.  The building is no longer a thing that exists in itself or that stands for something; rather, it is in active relationship to human beings and human beings will then also have to adopt an active attitude towards it in order to be able to experience its qualities.

This architecture (and this goes primarily for dwellings that have as their point of departure human beings as living creatures) does not just contain its own possibilities of advancement, but — and I am returning here to the question of spatial hygiene — it will lead still more to the advancement of the human being.

In connection with the expression ‘human advancement’ — in contrast with the aim of many architects at the advance of architecture and the advance of the arts — I would like to say something in passing about the nature of art in general, even though I said it would be better provisionally not to bring art into any discussion about architecture.

The artistic influence that ahs blurred the boundaries of architecture for a long time and has stood in the way of its development had very little, in fact nothing at all to do with art as such.  Through a confusion between the notion of art and that of aesthetics much damage has been done.  It was rather a case of the influence of aesthetics presenting itself as being artistic.

Aesthetics is a summing-up; it is a reflection on something that already exists.  One can just as easily say that nature is beautiful as one can say this of art or technology.  Aesthetics exposes the laws of the necessary relationship between the parts.  When someone says that something is not beautiful, this generally does not say much for his attention.  In fact one discovers regularity in everything that one analyzes deeply enough.  On the other hand it is a great mistake to be too flippant about this.  It is a mistake to say: if I have experienced joy in something, I can afford a disappointment.  Something can resemble something else that is beautiful and still be disappointing, because in other respects it falls short of it.  This is what has given beauty the reputation for being untrue, while in fact it is simply the recognition or discovery of what is systematic — that is, the regular character of what exists; not the rules according to which something beautiful is made.

There is nothing against liking something nor — if one gets pleasure from it — against searching for the laws that beauty seems to obey; nor is there anything wrong with constructing a science — aesthetics — around it; there is, however, something very wrong with using this to get in the way of architecture (the planning authorities) and to build houses that are less fit to live in.

[38]

Art is something quite different.  Art is a deed.

In general, art is not something that one enjoys.  Art is more a burden for the ordinary citizen than a delight.  Art certainly does not mean making something beautiful.  Art does not have any transcendental aim or implications.  Art has the purpose of developing a specific sense and making it healthy.  Art is the one-sided, but immediate experiencing of reality, the simple and ordinary reality that we only need to open our eyes (this is certainly a prerequisite) to see or to stretch out our hands to touch.  You would not think that so simple a thing as this, would be so precious.

I will try and say precisely what I mean by this: our senses are the only contact between ourselves and what can be perceived.

The sense of touch, of feeling, is something that I regard as an undifferentiated sense, one that is experienced by our whole body.

The differentiated senses are those of sight, hearing, and taste (including smell).

Sight, for instance, can again be divided into three senses, that is, the sense of color, the sense of space, and the sense of form.

According to the development of these senses, our being will be more or less open to what there is to perceive; our consciousness will also develop, because the range of our faculty for thought is entirely dependent on the development of our faculty of perception.  Our own personal well-being depends on the health and the degree of development of these senses.

Our sense of color is dependent on the state of our retinas.  When the three different sorts of nerve-endings, that are sensitive respectively to the impressions that we call red, yellow, or blue, are located completely separate from each other on a tightly stretched retina, our sensitivity to color is more intense.

The state of the retina is different in the case of our perception of forms.  In order to perceive an object at a greater distance, our retina must adjust itself so that it is further from our lens, than it needs to be to see an object in sharp focus which is close at hand.  In order to see in focus the total form of an object extending from nearby to further off, one’s retina has to bend in relief, as it were, so adjusting to the object of attention; someone who can do this will develop a better sense of form than someone who can only see parts of each form in focus.

Our sense of space depends rather on the breadth of our optical angle.  Most people see only a small part of a space simultaneously.  Their eye always picks up on just one detail and a larger empty space is unclear for them, because the view is too unlimited for them to see it properly.  I believe that this explains why many people feel the need to fill their interiors and cover their walls, so that no space remains empty, while other people feel a strong need for space.

If the health of our senses (via our consciousness) determines our mental state, then art in general is sensible and essential because it is the only thing that gives us the possibility (without any negative aspects) of being able to control our own well-being.

Architecture as an art form contributes to the development of our sense of space; in other words, it makes a very limited (specific) contribution to the development of consciousness that can still be very influential, because we come into contact with architecture all the time.

Sports train our muscles to execute well-coordinated movements.  In the same way architecture as an art form, in contrast with a purely passive, chaotic experience, should be a clear spectrum of exclusively active, well-coordinated (if possible, undiluted) sensory impressions.

It is therefore casting no aspersions on the value of art, if we choose to separate it provisionally from architecture; rather it is a matter (setting aside of course the confusion with aesthetics) of actually being open to art.  Without this basic requirement it has nothing to offer us.

Due to wrong education and a great deal of confusing talk about beauty and ugliness, about transcendental values and mysticism and nonsense like that, many people still do not even suspect the actual value of art.

In society, too, the function of something is always measured in terms of the quantity, the features or the quality of the thing itself; or else, in exceptional cases, according to the pleasure or gratification  or convenience that it offers us.  We almost never appreciate anything (with the possible exception of sports and music) in terms of the opportunity it gives us to exercise our faculties and skills.

IV

Clearly, architecture should not be too much in advance of the general development of humanity; we can only accept something that is within or almost within our comprehension and that we are mentally ready for.

It is not the amount of food that determines one’s physical growth.  Nor is it the volume of sound that determines the quality of the music.  It is not the amount of color that determines one’s feeling for color.  We are only capable of accepting something that we are prepared for.

Too little can save energy, too much exhausts it.

The right proportions and properties of the homes of the future will depend not only on the maximum amount of sun allowed to enter them, or on the minimum requirements of finance or indolence, but on our desire for life.  There is a verse in Ecclesiastes that does not sound very Christian: ‘Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works.’  This statement sounds to me indentical to that of the new functional architecture.  Limitations born of necessity can and must develop into a joyful liberation from all that is superfluous.

[39]

The great volumes that we have passively submitted to have been replaced by small nuances that sharpen our critical faculty.  A large amount of color will make less impression on someone with an underdeveloped color sense than a small subtlety of shading will make on someone with a highly developed sense of color.

We do not need to write this up in the losses column; on the contrary, it is a sign of progress that the huge monumental edifices will belong to the past and that we now also take an interest in small practical houses.  Our pieces of furniture too are no longer heavy immobile objects.  They are no longer exclusively intended for a single purpose nor, in fact, made for exceptional surroundings.  They are beginning to consist of small, light sections that can be assembled, so that one can construct a sort of framework as large as one wants; a piece of furniture consisting of supporting surfaces, in combination with open and closed boxes, drawers, and so on; not just for the welcome variety provided by new materials, because otherwise one would easily get a complicated wooden booth executed in chromium-plate — fashionable fads, curiosities at best.  The aim is to preserve a free, light, and unbroken space, that gives clarity to our lives and contributes to a new sense of life.

If architecture is genuinely to contribute to human advancement and not just satisfy our indolence, this must come about, otherwise it has no function at all and all our efforts will be in vain — it will have to renounce any aspirations to primarily being beautiful and monumental or even good.

One thing more.  Let’s keep it always in mind.  The house for people who want to live according to established norms exists already.  We are all too familiar with it.  The more solid and indestructible and complete it is made and the more perfect, the less chance there is that we will ever put it behind us.

The fact that in our better moments we are more comfortable sitting on a table than in a chair, or the fact that we don’t need a house, table, or chair at all, means that the house of the future (the house for the new generation) cannot and must not aim to conform to the notion of ‘living’ that is now prevalent.

[From De Vrije Bladen, no. 9 (1932)]

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~ by Ross Wolfe on October 20, 2010.

2 Responses to “Gerrit Rietveld’s “New Functionalism in Dutch Architecture” (1932)”

  1. […] Rietveld, Gerrit.  “New Functionalism in Dutch Architecture.” Translated by Marijke Küper.  Gerrit Rietveld: The Complete Works.  (Princeton University […]

  2. […] Rietveld, Gerrit.  “New Functionalism in Dutch Architecture.” Translated by Marijke Küper.  Gerrit Rietveld: The Complete Works.  (Princeton University […]

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