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The ‘core’ house

Throughout almost his entire working life, Gerrit Rietveld attempted to put the idea of the ‘core’ house into practice. The ‘core’ of Rietveld’s principle is a pre-fabricated element containing stairs, toilet, shower and kitchen: the basis of good, affordable, blue collar housing. The ‘core’ housing principle is never actually realised, but testifies to Rietveld’s tenacious commitment to his social ideals, and his technical and spatial ingenuity. The series of core houses is one of the most unusual quests to standardise and industrialise the production of working-class housing.

Around 1929, Rietveld launches the concept of a core house. Due to the practical difficulties involved in building entirely pre-fabricated housing, Rietveld starts to adapt his design, creating a pre-fabricated nucleus around which the rest of the house is constructed.

The concept centres on organising the living space of a flat or family home around a central core that contains functional amenities such as the stairs, bathroom, toilet, cupboards, pipes and drainage systems. The homes are also equipped with practical facilities such as a dumb waiter, garbage chute, window for grocery shopping, central heating and connections for telephony, radio and a vacuum cleaner. The functional core is made from pre-fabricated materials and is transported in its entirety from the factory to the building location.

The core house is an attempt to produce realisable floor plans for social housing in which the size of the functional areas (bathroom, toilet) is restricted and those of living spaces (living room) are larger. After 1929 Rietveld produced a considerable number of drawings and scale models to exemplify the core house principle. He applied his concept to individual villas, and to terraced housing and residential areas.

In 1929, models of the core house were presented in a touring exhibition of the work of the Nieuwe Bouwen movement, organised by the German Werkbund in Stuttgart. Part of this exhibition was also presented in the exhibition 'Neues Bauen' at the Kunstkring in Utrecht that same year. In 1929 Rietveld presented the core house idea at the second congress of the Congrès Internationaux d' Architecture Moderne (CIAM) in Frankfurt, the theme of which was ' Die Wohnung für das Existenzminimum'. A number of core houses were built in Utrecht between 1930 and 1934.

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