Discover de Stijl by Bike in Utrecht and Amersfoort, the Netherlands

Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht, the Netherlands
Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht, the Netherlands | © Takashi Images / Shutterstock
Tom Coggins

As several leading members of the movement were born and worked in the province, Utrecht features many monuments associated with de Stijl, ranging from Piet Mondrian’s birthplace to Gerrit Rietveld’s magnum opus, the Rietveld Schröder House. A series of cycle paths connects these landmarks, forming a two-tiered circular route that essentially serves as an open-air exhibition dedicated to de Stijl and the region’s artistic heritage.

How to navigate the routes

It is possible to discover the main landmarks related to de Stijl in the province by following a special 42-kilometre route, created in honour of the movement’s 100th anniversary in 2017, which runs between the cities of Utrecht and Amersfoort. Like other regions in the centre of the Netherlands, the land that lies between the two cities barely reaches above sea level (apart from slight elevations outside Amersfoort) and usually remains relatively flat, meaning that casual cyclists shouldn’t have too much trouble completing the route in question.

Blue skies over Utrecht

After cycling from Utrecht to Amersfoort (or vice-versa), travellers can return to their starting point by following another shorter curated route that trails past 10 public sculptures created by Dutch artist Boris Tellegen, which were inspired by de Stijl. This second, more direct cycle path takes approximately 90 minutes to complete and covers around 20 kilometres. Thankfully for anyone who doesn’t own a bike, there are several rental facilities in either city (including Utrecht’s Centraal Museum).

Centraal Museum, Utrecht

What to see along the way

The first route, known as ‘De Stijl between Utrecht and Amersfoort: finding Rietveld and Mondrian’, begins at Slot Zuylen, which lies around three kilometres outside Utrecht’s city centre. This 18th-century mansion serves as a starting point as Gerrit Rietveld began his career by designing furniture for its owners in the early 20th century. Several of his earliest creations are still displayed at the mansion and kept inside its gatehouse.

Slot Zuylen houses several pieces created by Gerrit Rietveld

The route then heads southwards into Utrecht, past Centraal Museum, which houses many artworks created by de Stijl’s luminaries and then, onto several other sites designed by Gerrit Rietveld, including an unassuming bench on Tamboersdijk. Although it is worth stopping at every landmark on the route located in Utrecht, the Rietveld Schröder House is undoubtedly the most famous piece of de Stijl architecture in the city and has been protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. The building was designed by Gerrit Rietveld (in collaboration with its owner Truus Schröder-Schräder) in the 1920s and features many innovative elements, such as moveable interior walls that allow its occupants to quickly change their home’s layout.

Rietveld Schröder House

Afterwards, cyclists can continue onto another series of buildings created by Rietveld on Erasmuslaan. Unlike the Rietveld Schröder House, these residential structures were built in accordance with Het Nieuwe Bouwen architecture rather than de Stijl and were made from prefabricated elements, in order to cut down costs and potentially inspire other affordable, yet well-designed housing projects in the Netherlands.

The residential building on Erasmuslaan designed by Rietveld

Around midway between Utrecht and Amersfoort, cyclists will pass Villa Henny on Amersfoortseweg, designed by architect Robert van ’t Hoff, who briefly collaborated with de Stijl. This charming modernist villa almost looks out of place in the Dutch countryside and was inspired by similar rural buildings created by famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Villa Henny

After entering Amersfoort, the route travels past an exhibition centre designed by Rietveld called De Zonnehof and finishes outside Mondriaanhuis, where Piet Mondrian was born in 1872. This simple, white-washed building was converted into a museum dedicated to its most famous resident in the 1990s and currently houses a full-scale replica of Mondrian’s studio in Paris, alongside other fascinating exhibitions that delve into the artist’s life.

Mondriaanhuis in Amersfoort

To return to Utrecht, cyclists can take another curated track called ‘Cycle Route de Stijl’ (which will officially launch on June 24th, 2018) that starts at Amersfoort’s Stationsplein. This speedy cycle path was created in order to reduce car traffic travelling between the cities and celebrate the region’s artistic heritage. A total of 10 pillar-like sculptures created by artist Boris Tellegen serve as waypoints on this route and were specifically designed to complement their surroundings.

‘Utopie’ by Boris Tellegen, located on Cycle Route de Stijl

For instance, the third column stands near a series of dunes and is painted in earthy tones, allowing it to blend in with the landscape, whereas the eighth column, located on the outskirts of Utrecht, features colours long-associated with de Stijl, namely red, blue, yellow and white. The project was conceived as an elaborate treasure hunt, where cyclists (conceptually) collect artworks while travelling from Amersfoort to Utrecht and gradually piece together each sculptures’ meaning as they ride. Once they arrive at their destination and have discovered all 10 columns, cyclists can finally interpret the project as a whole.

‘1917’ by Boris Tellegen, located on Cycle Route de Stijl

Planning your ride

Though it is certainly worth planning pit-stops along the way, at spots in Utrecht, Amersfoort or the surrounding countryside, it is easy enough to complete either route within three hours. Like every other city in the Netherlands, both destinations have public bike storage facilities that are completely free to use (so long as you bring a lock) and feature many hotels that offer day-by-day bicycle rental services. Aside from buying food and other essentials, it is advisable for cyclists to plan which locations they want to visit along the way, as some places like Centraal Museum, Mondriaanhuis or Zuylen Slot are quite large and take time to explore fully.

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