Café De Unie, Underlying Principles born of the Paint


The Café De Unie, built in Rotterdam between 1924 and 1925 by the architect Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud, is one of the most relevant examples of the neo-plastic movement, and constitutes with the Schröder house one of the built manifestos of the architecture of the De Stijl group.

The job was commissioned to Oud in 1924, who at the time was working as architect of the commune. The work was destined to filling temporary a vacant lot, with a life expectancy of only 10 years. Possibly encouraged by the temporary nature of the construction, the intervention of Oud breaks the tradition of staggered fronts of the historic buildings of the city, to manifest with great cogency the principles of neo-plastic movement.

At the time, Oud stood distanced the other members of the movement, however proposed a composition that respects the basic concepts of the group, a balanced game geometric of color planes disposed horizontally and vertically.

The composition repeats the colors and textures used by Oud a year ago in The house of the Director of the district Oud-Mathenesse, but in contrast of this oeuvre, the facade is treated as a plane with reliefs, where columns, windows, ducts and flat blind acquire an artistic value in the composition and the only ones three-dimensional elements that stand out from the facade are the local identifiers posters.


It can be seen a similarity in the arrangement and balance of the façade planes with the composition of Mondrian Tableau I, performed in 1920, who validates a statement of Mondrian who displeased to the own Oud. For Mondrian, the aesthetic principles underlying to all the artistic forms were born of painting, and in this sense, Cafe de Unie is the only work of De Stijl group who   confirms these concepts.

Mondrian Tableau 1

Mondrian Tableau 1

Cafe de Unie was destroyed during the bombing of Rotterdam on May 14, 1940 at the dawn of World War II. During the 15 years of its existence, the building was occupied by De Unie coffee, then to a car dealership and finally the Modern Café. In 1986 was decided to rebuild the building, in Mauritsweg 34 Street, in similar terrain 500 meters from the original site, constructed under the direction of architect Carel Weeber.

Today, De Unie is a cultural city cairn, where functions the bar, a restaurant and a theater that was built in the rear of the building. In 2010, designer Peter Hopman reconditioned the interior of the bar, by equipping it with a chair of his authoring a limited edition of 50 copies, based on a sketch of Oud, 1934, discovered in the archives of the Dutch Architecture Institute.

De Unie is an iconic work who represents the character of the De Stijl group, a design that positioned Oud’s career in a place of preference among the architectural avant-garde architects of the early years of the modern movement.

credit photo: ©Vera The Cook; ©; ©Guy

by Marcelo Gardinetti


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