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Avant-Garde Architecture by Piet Blom

Piet Blom 
Avant-Garde Architecture in the Netherlands

Piet Blom (1934-1999) is considered to be the 'enfant terrible' of Dutch architecture. Although he is just 'a minor footnote' on Wikipedia's page, his works deserves a closer second look.  His architecture has always been difficult to classify but is perhaps best described as avant-garde structuralism. Piet Blom became notorious with his daring kubuswoningen (cubehouses) constructed in the Dutch cities of Rotterdam and Helmond during the 1970s and 1980s. Piet Blom's first drafts for these cubist houses originate from 1973 but it took Piet Blom a while to find financial backing for them. In the end it was all good though, the 38 cubehouses that were planned for the city of Rotterdam were all sold before construction had even started. Most people that live in them have shown no noticeable side-affects according to Dutch officials; others aren't so sure.

Piet Blom's cubehouses were both loathed and loved when they were completed. Some considered them a terrible eyesore but others called the cubehouse structure 'a masterpiece of avant-garde architecture in its own right'. As the years have passed, tastes have come and gone. Now that the Cubehouses in Rotterdam are nearing their 30th anniversary (2014), they have found wider acceptance and have grown to become the proud symbol of the city of Rotterdam.  As you may recall, the same thing happened a century ago with another famous monument in Paris...

Each cubehouse is tilted and sits on hexagon-shaped pole structures above a pedestrian bridge.  According to Piet Blom; each cubehouse represents a tree and all the cubehouses together create a forest of abstract trees.  The cubes contain the living areas, which are split into three levels. The triangle-shaped lower level contains the living room. The windows on this level open onto the environment below due to the slope of the tilted cube (people with vertigo should refrain from visiting these cubehouses). The level in the center contains the bedroom and a bathroom, while the top level, also in a triangular shape, is used as either an extra bedroom or as an optional living space. The top level provides a great view since the apex of the room is a three sided pyramid with windows all around. The support pole below some of the cubes allow for storage space as well as the staircase that leads to the entrance, while others have shops on the promenade level.

Dutch mid-century modern furniture shop Mid Mod Design is now offering a rare table set
by Piet Blom, made in the same color composition as the Piet Blom cubehouses.   

 Image and Text Credits: Lucia Fontana for moderndesign.org, Mid Mod Design, Wilson Tsoi