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Technical innovations

The use of steel also had a major influence on the new visual culture that was developed by De Stijl and, later, Dutch functionalism (Het Nieuwe Bouwen). Berens points to the example of the grain silo by Michiel Brinkman in Rotterdam, for which he designed an enormous skeleton construction of tightly ranked rows of iron columns. In fact, the influence of technical innovation on visual culture continued up until the Second World War, Berens explains. ‘You can even see some of the same designers among the Dutch Functionalists. For example, the colours used in the Sonneveld House of 1933, designed by the architects Brinkman and van der Vlugt, were the same colours De Stijl artist Bart van der Leck had composed for the Amsterdam department store Metz & Co. The same blues, reds and yellows were used in the dining room, and blue and yellow were used in the children’s bedrooms where, this year, we added red chairs upholstered in fabric from the Van der Leck series.

Berens says that the partnership between The Hague Gemeentemuseum and Het Nieuwe Instituut has been very enjoyable. It didn’t take long at all for them to agree on the idea underlying the exhibition. Because this year marks the centenary of the movement’s genesis, several art institutions are holding exhibitions on De Stijl. Utrecht’s Centraal Museum and Kade in Amersfoort both approached Het Nieuwe Instituut to borrow drawings and maquettes from the archive. Berens stressed that there is plenty of material to choose from. ‘We are in a position to be able to lend artefacts liberally while still retaining enough to put on an extensive exhibition ourselves. Some institutions had to wait a little while we made our selection for The desire for style, but there was still more than enough to draw on. The wonderful advantage of an extensive archive like the State Archives for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning is that you can graze in it time and again, each time from a different angle, and still discover new items or make new selections. 

Interview by Lotte Haagsma