Sketches from Utrecht

Here are the sketches l made during my stay in Utrecht.

Sculpture from the Dom of St Martin of Tours cutting his cloak in half to give to a beggar. (At first I thought it was a strange image for a church, quite threatening with the drawn sword, until a passer by explained the story). The City of Utrecht also derives it’s diagonally slashed two colour red and white coat of arms to this story.

Some roofline and details of a building near the Dom.

The canals of Utrecht are distinguished by their lower level storage areas, now largely used as restaurants and cafes.

Next to the Dom are the cloister gardens, which are owned by the university. Each arch has a different tracery. I could have sketched in there for ages. While the gardens are generally open to the public they can be closed for university events. In that case they can be seen from the Dom cafe, inside the cathedral.

The character of Miffy was created by Dick Bruna, a Utrecht native. In 2014 a statue to Dick and his creation Miffy was made by Jacques Tange. The sculpture has two sides, one featuring Dick and the other Miffy.

Just outside Utrecht station, in the middle of the canal sits this whale made of 5 tonnes of plastic reclaimed from the ocean. It’s called Stranded and it was made by Studio KCA. I understand that the sculpture is travelling the world and will only be in Utrecht for a few more months.

The Rietveld Schröder House, Utrecht

While in Utrecht I visited the Rietvelt Schröder House. Such a fascinating building, so well designed by the widow and the furniture maker. Neither was architect.

After she was widowed Truus Schröder asked Gerrit Rietvelt to help her find a house. Failing to find anything suitable, rietvelt suggested she build. A block of land was found on the then outskirts of Utrecht. In an interview Truus said that the small block of land they found was where all the truck drivers stopped to pee, “it was quite disgusting”. But what it did have was views over the countryside. Sadly, now it has a motorway right next to it.

The house was designed by deciding on what was needed in each room, before designing the exterior. Rietvelt wanted to build in concrete but the budget was too small.

The ground floor is built fairly conventionally, to help with building approval. Each ground floor room had a wash basin and it’s own door so the occupants could come and go as they pleased.

Once the Schröder children had left home the lower level of the house was rented out while Truus Schröder lived on the upper floor. For many years Rietvelt has his office in one of the ground floor rooms.

Below is a picture of one corner of the upper floor, originally the bedroom of Truus Schröder’s son. Each sleeping area could be enclosed by sliding panels and the windows were covered by wooden shutters in the evening.

This is a truly fascinating house and unlike many other ‘iconic’ buildings is extremely functional. As Truus Schröder said to one of her former lodges, “you need to respect the house, but you don’t have to worship it.”

Put this on your ‘must see’ list for Utrecht. Buy your tickets in advance as the tour size is limited and operates on selected days only. Easy access by public transport, signposts from the bus stop direct you to the house.

The Pandhof Dom in Utrecht

On our last day in Utrecht we were able to visit the Pandhof, or cloister gardens of the Dom (cathedral, dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours). We were lucky as fellow Urban Sketchers @kittyvdheuvel and @imonkie had only been able to see the gardens from the Dom cafe the day before.

A panoramic view of the gardens.

Built in the 1400’s as a cloister connecting the cathedral and chapter house, the Pandhof was only used by the church for about 100 years before local residents took it over. The garden became part of Utrecht University in 1636 and gets closed for university functions every so often.

The beautiful stone arches of the cloister.

I loved that each archway had a different design at the top and every gargoyle was an individual.

Some of the gargoyles in the cloister.

I sketched the central archway in the photo above, which also features a sculpture of the death of Saint Martin, left side of the page. I was sitting inside the cloister as heavy rain was falling. It gave me the idea to paint the right hand side view, which is of the archway I was sitting behind from the inside. I added the flowers for the garden, which was initially created in 1962 and then redesigned and replanted in 1975.

Archway with the death of Saint Martin, left side; view from inside the cloister, right side.