Gerrit Thomas Rietveld was a Dutch architect and furniture designer. His work serves as the standards on which the very structure and design of the humble chair would be placed under a microscope throughout the years. His ideas are very influential to most of last century’s masters of design. He was trained first as a cabinetmaker by his father, and then through a night class curriculum. He used to work as a goldsmith before completing his schooling, and in 1911, start
ed his own business in Utrecht.
Rietveld became a member of De Stijl (the Style) movement in 1919 when his "Red/Blue" chair was praised in the magazine and was named an icon of the new interior look. The armchair was reduced to its bare planes and angles; it was painted only in primary colors and black to alleviate illusion of spatial boundaries.
Rietveld once said that his goal was that the "work in its entirety must be able to stand freely and brightly on its own two feet, and the form must triumph over the material." Surely, the geometric form and the color scheme compliment the angular plywood structure. The chair remains as a model of his personal style and the concept modernism itself. His greatest works from that time are a 1919 sideboard, a skeleton without the casing that put the object together and a 1920 hanging lamp of tubular lights, four of them which resemble an illuminating mobile.
During the 1920s Rietveld designed with modern artists like Piet Mondrian and El Lissitzky. He was inspired Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, but he also started dabbing more abstract shapes. Amsterdam’s Metz & Co marked his 1927 plywood "Beugel Stool," for production in 1930. In 1934 they released a collapsible chair made of crate wood. This could be assembled by anyone with little effort.
These chairs are a product of Rietveld's belief that "a piece of furniture made of high-grade wood and manufactured completely according to traditional production methods is transported in a crate to avoid damage...no one has ever ascertained that such a chest showcases an improvised and professional carpentry... " This philosophy never went down well with the public unfortunately and the pieces were received by a very limited market.
His piece de resistance, the "Zig Zag" chair and an "S" chair was called a "designer joke" because its physics of support looked improbable. It was an attempt at avant garde design; the chair had a "z" shape with an attached back, and was quite strong because it had corner wedges and dovetail joints.
Metz & Co. produced that particular piece with a side table. Rietveld also tried out designs with tubular metal in the 1950s. He enjoyed success and his work was centre pieces in state of the art shows such as De Stijl, the Viennese Werkbund in 1931, and at the Venice Biennial in. He died on June 26, 1964, leaving behind a large number of designs that inspired generations of architects and will forever do so.