The Sonneveld House Museum in Rotterdam is one of the best-preserved houses in the Nieuwe Bouwen style, the Dutch branch of the International School of Modernism. It was designed in the early 1930s by the architecture firm of Brinkman & Van der Vlugt. They were also responsible for the extraordinary interior, in close collaboration with W.H. Gispen.
Albertus Sonneveld, one of the three directors of the Van Nelle Factory, commissioned the construction of the detached house for himself and his family in 1929. They finally moved into the new house on Jongkindstraat in 1933, leaving all their old household possessions behind. Not merely content to adapt to their new surroundings, they chose to modernize their whole lifestyle according to the tastes of the avant garde. The Sonneveld House illustrates how the new trends in architecture were welcomed by the influential upper middle class.
Nieuwe Bouwen is a functionalist architecture that emerged in the early 20th century and peaked between the two world wars. Rather than aiming toward monumentalism, its architects focused on a building’s function and the needs of its users. They used modern techniques and materials such as concrete and steel frames to design efficient, hygienic buildings. Functional floor plans and an open, flexible layout contrasted with the traditional closed volumes and gave the buildings an open, airy feel. Nieuwe Bouwen sought to create a healthy living environment full of fresh air and sunlight.
A striking aspect of the house is the way Brinkman and Van der Vlugt designed not only the architecture but also the complete interior. For the furnishings, they selected mainly furniture by the designer/manufacturer Gispen and fabrics by the firm Metz & Co. The Sonneveld House is probably the first example of an early modern interior where the products of these companies were applied consistently. The house was moreover equipped with the latest household gadgets to enhance the domestic pleasure of its inhabitants.
The Sonneveld House Museum reveals the lifestyle of a prominent family of Rotterdammers who embraced modernism, showing how they furnished their house and which objects they surrounded themselves with. The art and consumer goods that enrich the interior have been collected through gifts, purchases and loans. A designer-in-residence programme enables the creation of contemporary work in response to the house and its interior.
The Sonneveld House has its own website (mostly in Dutch) www.huissonneveld.nl. The Sonneveld family belonged to the cultural elite of Rotterdam. In 1933, they made a radical conversion to a modern lifestyle. Website visitors can reconstruct the story of the Sonnevelds according to their own interests by following one of the theme lines or clicking on objects in the house, each of which tells something about the family history, architecture, interior, artefacts, or Rotterdam in the 1930s.
Iconic Houses Network
The Sonneveld House is part of Iconic Houses Network. Its website offers an overview of modern house museums and architects' houses world wide, open to the public. Iconic Houses is also an organisation for professionals who are active in the management of house museums, aiming at sharing knowledge and expertise in the field of conservation, presentation and reaching an audience. See the Sonneveld House webspecial on Iconic Houses.org
Images are available for download on the press page