March 15, 2010

Herzog & de Meuron’s VitraHaus Opens in Germany

When a major fire in 1981 destroyed most of Vitra’s circa-1950 production facilities, the modern design manufacturer rebuilt by staying true to its sensibilities. They enlisted a who’s-who of world-class architects to supplement what remained of its original campus on Charles-Eames-Strasse in Weil am Rhein, Germany, from Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome and Frank Gehry’s Vitra Design Museum to structures by Zaha Hadid, Jean Prouvé, Tadao Ando, Nicholas Grimshaw, and Jasper Morrison.

Now joining that esteemed list is Herzog & de Meuron, the Swiss firm most recognized for its Bird’s Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, which has designed the company’s newly opened headquarters for its Home Collection.

VitraHaus was conceived as a stretched version of the archetypal gabled home, combining a series of twelve showrooms or “houses” in an intersecting stack five stories high. The gabled ends of each are glazed and intersect with the floor slabs of the showrooms above—cantilevered up to 49 feet in some places.

A tour of the VitraHaus leads through a variety of spaces, including a color laboratory that shows Vitra’s range of options, the “Vitrine,” a selection of chair designs from the 19th and 20th centuries, the Vitra Design Museum Shop, and the VitraHaus Café. Classic furnishings and objects by Charles & Ray Eames, George Nelson, Isamu Noguchi and Jean Prouvé mingle with latter-day designs by Maarten Van Severen, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Antonio Citterio, Hella Jongerius and Jasper Morrison.

Views from VitraHaus take in both the Tüllinger Hill vineyards and France’s Alsace region. The charcoal-colored stucco exterior was fittingly designed to connect it to its surroundings in the countryside near the Swiss border—and Herzog & de Meuron’s own headquarters in Basel.

Images courtesy of Vitra.

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