Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (1888-1964) was an architect and furniture designer. He became best known for his designs based on the principles of De Stijl, such as the Rietveld-Schröder House and the ‘red/blue chair’. Both are composed of black lines and geometrical shapes in primary colours or in grey, black and white. Rietveld was the first to apply the principles of this movement to architecture. Throughout his life he continued to design furniture as well as buildings and interiors.
Rietveld became increasingly interested in the social role of architecture. He participated in the CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) meetings and from the late 1920s was concerned with social housing, inexpensive production methods, new materials, prefabrication and standardisation. In 1927 he was already experimenting with prefabricated concrete slabs, a very unusual material at that time. In the 1920s and 1930s, however, all his commissions came from private individuals, and it was not until the 1950s that he was able to put his progressive ideas about social housing into practice, in projects in Utrecht and Reeuwijk.
In 1951 Rietveld designed a retrospective exhibition about De Stijl which was held in Amsterdam, Venice and New York. Interest in his work revived as a result. In subsequent years he was given many prestigious commissions, including the Dutch pavilion for the Venice Biennale, art academies in Amsterdam and Arnhem, and the press room for the UNESCO building in Paris. In order to handle all these projects, in 1961 Rietveld set up a partnership with the architects Van Dillen and Van Tricht.
He was only able to do the sketches for his last commission, a museum for the work of Vincent van Gogh. After Rietveld’s death (on 25 June 1964) his plans were carried out by his partners. By then Rietveld had achieved widespread international recognition, including a retrospective exhibition devoted to his architectural work (at the Centraal Museum, Utrecht, 1958) and an honorary doctorate from the University of Delft.