Centraal Museum Utrecht and Rietveld Schröder House

February 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

Centraal Museum Utrecht and Rietveld Schröder House, Utrecht, the Netherlands
Date of Visit: Spring Break, March 2004
Address: Nicolaaskerkhof 10, Utrecht

Link: Centraal Museum http://www.centraalmuseum.nl
Link: Rietveld Schröder House: http://www.rietveldjaar.nl
Link: Rietveld iPhone app http://www.appstorehq.com/rietveld-iphone-268734/app)

The 2010 International Rietveld Year concluded on January 30th but we’d like to reminisce about a past visit to the Centraal Museum and the Rietveld Schröder House. We realize that 2004 is ancient history—pre-Rietveld iPhone app and pre-virtual tour of Reitveld  Schröder House—but the experience of actually visiting Rietveld’s work is probably pretty much the same.

We traveled by train from Amsterdam to Utrecht, a half hour trip that speeds by when you are traveling with a fellow designer who is an excellent conversationalist. Utrecht is a town dominated by the red brick buildings and orderliness. Nice buses ran on schedule but we opted for a taxi—time was short.

Design Travel Companion and Excellent Conversationalist

First stop was the museum, home of the world’s largest Rietveld collection. Upon entering we were awash in design: clean architecture, pretty banners and clear signage, all sorts of design touches including the Victor & Rolf designed denim suits worn by the staff.

Housed in a former medieval cloister, the museum consists of several buildings with a central courtyard. We made our ways through the well-organized displays, enjoying the almost visitor-free galleries. There were plenty of excellent examples of early 20th graphic design, De Stijl, Dada, etc. A number of design icons evoked a ‘so-that-is-what it-really-looks-like’ reaction. After seeing so many printed and digital reproductions we still feel that technology cannot replace personal observation.

How exciting it must have been to be part of the early 20th century avant-garde movement. A lot of energy and idealism was expressed through simple and cheap materials. There were pieces made from magazine and yellowed newspaper clippings that had faded—some of this work was made for the  moment, not necessarily planned to be forever embalmed in a museum.

Professor Ocko’s eagle eye spotted a famous piece, usually attributed jointly to Kurt Schwitters and Theo van Doesburg, but here identified as solely as van Doesburg’s. The framing was a little suspect but who could question the attribution? Sorry the label is probably not legible; you’ll have to take our word for it.
Our main objective was to see Gerrit Rietveld’s work. The museum web site states that Rietveld “designed much more than only the classic Red-Blue chair and the famous Rietveld Schröder House. Rietveld realized more than one hundred buildings and many pieces of furniture.”  Although currently an expanded exhibition, at the time of our visit there was less Rietveld. Most of the examples were from the 1920’s. The clunky appearance came partly from his use of standardized wood measures intended for mass production. His dual objectives of expressing the de Stijl philosophy and modularity were met—comfort appeared to be a lower priority. The big star, his chair, looks sweet and diminutive, like children’s furniture, especially as it was located near to his design for a child’s wagon.

Design Traveler  &  THE chair.

The chair is small but not as small as a recent reproduction by Maarten Meerman from Vancouver. (via Design boom)

Lunch was in the museum’s cafe—a combination sandwich/salad of smoked fish that you ate with a fork and knife — before hustling over to the Rietveld House. The building, commissioned by Truus Schröder-Schräder, is the only piece of architecture ever realized from the De Stijl movement. When we arrived we were disappointed to learn that the house was not open. We peeked into windows and photographed the outside, apparently the sort of behavior that Ms. Schröder-Schräder had to deal with endlessly when she inhabited the building. The house is situated at the end of a long block of traditional brick houses. I couldn’t help but wonder what the neighbors thought when they saw the radical new addition to their street.  Fortunately we can see what me missed via a nice virtual tour. http://www.rietveldschroderhuis.nl/rondleidingEng.jsp

We returned to Amsterdam by train, energized like fans who’d seen one of their favorite movie stars. The day had been well spent . Some great images from the exhibition and house can be see on Designboom


Bodoni Museum, Parma, Italy

November 26, 2010 § 3 Comments

Bodoni Matrices

Bodoni Museum, Parma, Italy
Date of Visit: Early October, 2010
Address Biblioteca Palatina – Strada alla Pilotta, 3 – 43100 Parma – Italia |
Link:  http://www.museobodoni.beniculturali.it/


Bodoni printed cover, Bodoni bust at the entrance

Our trip to the Bodoni Museum was a wonderfully rich and relaxing experience, partially due to our being the only visitors present and the lovely staff. The museum is not freely open to the public but access can be obtained by advanced request—in our case it was organized through fax. (It required dredging up old Italian skills honed during an apprenticeship under Nino Caruso in Rome plus a good dash of Babelfish).

It is made clear that you will be on your own, that all materials are in Italian and that the lunch hour closing is a principal consideration in scheduling the visit. A list of  Italian-English interpreters was offered but we felt we could manage on our own.

The museum is located deep within a massive building housing the Biblioteca Palatina. You are met at the door and ushered up a tiny elevator to the Bodoni floor. Walking through the staff office you arrive in the exhibition hall, a high-ceilinged space ringed by showcases of Bodoni’s work arranged in chronological order. Actually the first few showcases cover printing history pre-Bodoni, full of original and facsimile examples, wonderfully instructive for school visits.

The center aisle holds vitrines full of the type making equipment, the tools for punchcutting, molds and Bodoni’s sketches. There is also a full-scale printing press of the ilk Bodoni would have used. On the wall above the cases were a series of handsome large instructive posters describing the various classifications of type.

Type mold with cast letter in place

Bodoni capital punches

Bodoni capital punches

While it was fantastic to see the original books, equally captivating were Bodoni’s original sketches demonstrating both his design explorations and his informal handwriting and numbering.sketches2


Borders, Printed and sketched


We were there not only to see Mr. Bodoni, but also to see what we could learn of Mrs. Bodoni, Signora Paola Margherita Dall ‘Aglio, who printed the Manuale Tipografico after Bodoni’s death and ran the printing office for an additional 20 years. Widows frequently inherited their husband’s presses and in some cases, as Mrs. Bodoni did, assured their spouse’s place in history by completing their work. As would be expected she was “highly cultivated, and a most amiable and excellent woman.”

Unfortunately for us, information about her had been removed in preparation for the October 15th Congress of Printing Museums. Regardless the final cases displayed books with her name on the title page as publisher. The words La Vedova (Italian) and La Veuve (French) meaning widow.We spent the entire morning uninterrupted as our non-designer companion dozed off some jet lag on a side bench. His reward was a deliciously slow lunch at a local bistro including Parma ham appetizer, pumpkin ravioli and a bottle of Barollo.

Printed by the Widow Bodoni

A French publication by Signora Bodoni

Written by N. Stock-Allen

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