Design haus

A striking new structure showcases Vitra's Home Collection

NEWS, Design
NEWS, Design
NEWS, Design

A striking new Herzog & de Meuron-designed structure showcases Vitra’s Home Collection

Germany’s Weil am Rhein, home of the Vitra Campus, has a striking new landmark, the VitraHaus.

Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the building is a showcase of the company’s Home Collection, where classics by Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Isamu Noguchi, Jean Prouve and Verner Panton mingle with contemporary designs from Maarten van Severen, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Antonio Citterio, Hella Jongerius and Jasper Morisson.

The space was created to act as a source of inspiration for visitors, where they can try out the furniture on display, and order and purchase products. There is also the opportunity to learn more about the company’s production methods, quality control and commitment to sustainability.

Since 1981, when a major fire destroyed most of the production facilities on the Vitra premises in Weil am Rhein, the area has been transformed into the site of a heterogeneous ensemble of contemporary architecture. Zaha Hadid realised her very first built structure there. The Vitra Design House was the first piece of architectural work by Frank Gehry outside of the US, and Tadao Ando constructed his first building outside of Japan on the campus.

Since there was no dedicated space for Vitra’s Home Collection, which was launched in 2004, Vitra commissioned the Basel-based architects Herzog & de Meuron to create the Vitrahaus in 2006. Set on the northern side of the grounds, VitraHaus stands alongside Gehry’s Vitra Design Museum, which was created in 1989, and Ando’s Conference Pavilion, which came into existence in 1993.

The structure promotes two classic Herzog & de Meuron themes: the archetypal house, and the idea of stacked volumes. In Weil am Rhein it was particularly appropriate to return to the idea of the ur-house, since the purpose of the structure is to promote objects for the home. The proportions and dimensions of the space are of a ‘domestic’ scale, meaning that the showrooms are reminiscent of a familiar residential setting.

Stacked to a total of five storeys high and cantilevered up to 15m in some places, the vertical collection of 12 houses, whose floor slabs intersect the underlying gables, create a three-dimensional structure – a pile of houses that, at first glance, has an almost chaotic appearance. The charcoal colour of the exterior stucco skin unifies the structure, ‘earths’ it and connects it to the surrounding landscape.

The complexity of the interior is further enhanced by a second geometrical concept. All of the staircases within the structure are integrated into expansive, winding, organic volumes that ‘eat’ their way into the various levels of the building like a worm.

Some 21m in height, 54m in width and 57m in length, VitraHaus extends above the other buildings on the Vitra campus. The aim was very much to create a vertically-orientated structure with a small footprint – in stark contrast to traditional production facilities.

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