The new building designed by Herzog & de Meuron for Vitra adds to the architectural complex present on the site in Weil am Rhein, along with Frank Gehry’s Vitra Design Museum (1989) and Tadao Ando’s Conference Centre (1993), as well as buildings designed by Zaha Hadid, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Jean Prouve, Jasper Morrison, and three industrial buildings by Nicholas Grimshaw, Alvaro Siza and SANAA.
VitraHaus combines two common themes in Herzog & de Meuron’s work: the archetypal home and superimposition of volumes.
In this container presenting items of home furniture, the architects returned to the archetypal model of the house with a gable roof, made up of five surfaces: the two side walls, the two inclined sides of the roof and the floor. The showroom’s proportions and internal measurements are like those of a home, and the installations recall domestic settings. The project as a whole looks like an apparently chaotic assembly of individual houses stacked one on top of the other for a total of five floors, with some exceptions, only the end walls are open, concluding with glass flush with the walls, while the longitudinal volumes seem to be cut off by extruded prisms.
The visit starts at the top level, reached via an elevator, and works downward along a complex route offering spectacular views of a number of areas around the building through the glass ends. The interiors are whitened to offer a discrete backdrop that shows off the objects on display. The exterior is painted slate grey, a colour that ensures that the building fits into its setting and that the volumes dissolve into the darkness at sundown, while the illuminated interiors become even more visible.
(by Agnese Bifulco)
Design: Herzog & de Meuron
Photographs: (1) Leon Chew
(2) (3) (4) Iwan Baan, © Vitra
Location: Weil am Rhein, Germany