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Puntweg

Kinderdijk

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Smit House

This is one of the least well-known projects of Gerrit Rietveld, and is a perfect illustration of what the architect referred to as ‘the luxuriance of restraint’. This family home for a wealthy shipbuilding magnate boasts a commonplace interior. The functions are all perfectly ordered, and the interior is devoid of any suggestions of opulence.

Nevertheless, the villa in Kinderdijk is an impressive structure. Rietveld took great trouble in precisely situating the house on the riverbank so it commanded the most striking views of the river. Despite its modest size, the extraordinary view of the boatyard and passing ships gives an incredible sense of freedom. Shipbuilding magnate Leo Smit commissioned Rietveld to design a spacious family home on a site adjacent to his shipbuilding yard with a view of the river and the boatyards on the other side.

The design that was ultimately built was preceded by an impressive series of preliminary designs. The first design, which is shown here, features rounded corners and an arched roof. The client wanted the architecture to integrate elements familiar from shipbuilding and also believed that the rounded forms would reduce the audibility of the wind. The design comprises a ground floor, two upper storeys and a low garage adjacent to the house. A broad balcony, terrace and greenhouse are situated on the southern aspect. The interior includes a large sitting room, a large lounge-cum-bedroom, a kitchen with pantries, toilets, a hall and a workshop are on the ground floor. Six lounge-cum-bedrooms and a bathroom are on the first floor.

Because of anticipated difficulties in laying the foundations (poor subsoil and an inaccessible location), the house is founded on a concrete trench that also doubles as a basement that runs the length of the entire house. The design that was actually built bears not the slightest resemblance to the first design. The rounded forms of both the floor plan and facade components are replaced by a flat roof and rectilinear angles (with the exception of two ‘portholes’ flanking the front door). The villa was, however, built on the concrete substructure. 

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