Action Sühnezeichen (1966) Rietveld Van Dill Van Tricht

photo Otto Snoek
About the artwork

In 1961, this building was offered as an atonement gift from the German Evangelical Church to Rotterdam, which was hit by the German bombardment. An ecumenical center as a sign of 'wiedergutmachung' by Aktion Sühnezeichen, a volunteer service of the German Evangelical Church that realized all kinds of reconstruction projects after the Second World War. The contract was awarded to the architectural firm of Rietveld Van Dillen Van Tricht via a tender. Neither Gerrit Rietveld nor Joan van Dillen, who died in 1964 and 1966 respectively, witnessed the completion of the building; it is thus largely the work of Van Tricht. The design of the building consists of a cube raised above ground level that is supported by four stairwells of increasing height along the four sides. Bringing together various functions, such as meeting hall, sports and cinema, library, course room, director's residence and guest rooms, within an abstract volume represents the ecumenical idea. It is based on cooperation between the different Christian faith communities to grow into a religious unity. The perfect cube is seen as the purest form of unity and raising the cube suggests sublimity. This idea is probably re-imagined in the two stacked cubes placed in front of the entrance. At the front of the memorial is a figure with the text 'Aktion Sühnezeichen 19 3 1966'. The date presumably refers to when this object was revealed. When the building is taken into use in 1968, it gets the name Willem Visser 't Hoof Center, named after the Dutch theologian who is the first Secretary General of the World Council of Churches. It will be named later 950 podium. In more than 50 years, the building has had various users and owners, such as the Erasmus University Rotterdam and the Masonic Lodge. The current owner is U Vastgoed and the building is a municipal monument. Since the end of 2022, three display cases next to the entrance have been restored, which are filled in by Museum Rotterdam '40-'45 NU.

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About the artist

Gerrit Rietveld (Utrecht, 1888 – there, 1964) was a well-known architect and furniture designer. He also produced graphic work, including posters and magazine covers. He is best known as a member of De Stijl and as a pioneer of new building. In 1961, Gerrit Rietveld, together with architect Joan van Dillen ('s-Hertogenbosch, 1930 – Utrecht, 1966) and architect Jan van Tricht (Zuilen, 1928 – Houten, 2008), founded the architectural firm Rietveld Van Dillen Van Tricht.

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