Utility pay a visit the home of iconic design brand Vitra in Weil am Rhein, Germany.
This Summer our Head of Digital Retail Shaun packed his bags and boarded a short flight to Basel just a few miles west of the German border and prepared for two days of soaking up the incredible architecture, design and Vitra product knowledge. These are his best bits...
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Vitra Campus here's a quick intro.
The Vitra Campus is simultaneously a fully operational production site and a field of experimentation for architecture and design. The Campus grounds feature an ensemble of contemporary buildings from world renowned architects such as Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando. It acts as a means of bringing together the commercial and cultural aspects of the Swiss furniture brand.
The Campus, as we see it today all started with a large fire in 1981 that destroyed most of the factory buildings. Following the fire Vitra commissioned Zaha Hadid to build an operational fire station on campus (her first built project). Following that the campus commissioned other "firsts" : Tadao Ando's conference building was his first build outside of Japan and Frank Gehry's Design Museum was the American's first European project.
The legendary architect Philip Johnson once wrote: “Not since the Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart in 1927 has there been a gathering in a single place of a group of buildings designed by the most distinguished architects in the Western world.”
In developing the Campus, the architects involved sought to create buildings that harmonised both with the surrounding residential areas and with the natural landscape of the border triangle (Switzerland, Germany and France). And, indeed, what came about was a collection of purpose-built constructions, the incredible density and quality of which have made the Vitra Campus an attraction for fans of architecture from all over the world.
Below is a video tour of the campus plus some of Shaun's favourite spots from his trip.
You can find out more about the architecture of Vitra's Campus here.
The Design Museum (Schaudepot)
Designed by Herzog & de Meuron in 2016, the Schaudepot is one of the newer buildings on campus. The striking exterior is characterised by a completely windowless, hand-broken red brick façade and simple gable roof. The bricks were split on site and give the building a lively texture which is best appreciated up close.
A simple and dignified structure, the Schaudepot is surrounded by a raised public plaza that ties the building into the architectural ensemble of the campus. The new building contrasts appealingly with the dynamic contours of the opposite Fire Station by Zaha Hadid (1993) while corresponding to the factory building by Álvaro Siza (1992), which was also executed in brick.
Within the main hall, the Vitra Design Museum presents key objects from its extensive collection, creating one the largest permanent exhibitions and research sites on contemporary furniture design. Today the collection of the Vitra Design Museum encompasses a total of around 20 000 objects, with some 7000 pieces of furniture, more than 1000 lighting objects and numerous archives, as well as the Collection of the Eames Office, or the estates of Verner Panton and Alexander Girard
The VitraHaus, built by Herzog & de Meuron, is Vitra’s flagship store and home to the Vitra Home Collection. The building is expertly curated to showcase furniture arrangements in different styles, giving you an idea of how Vitra classics and newer product designs can sit together in the home.
This means that you can find inspiration for your home, explore your taste in design and try out, order and purchase furniture and design objects.
Enjoy the view from the loft and then set off on a tour of discovery: in addition to the showroom over four floors, a shop, the Lounge Chair Atelier and the Café await you on the ground floor.
The relatively unknown Villa Hager is an idyllic three storey building situated on the edge of the Vitra Campus. It is entirely curated by Artek (who were acquired by Vitra in 2014) to showcase their range of products alongside the Vitra Home collection.
A dream home for many, Villa Hager showcases designs from well celebrated contemporary designers such as Barber Osgerby & Hella Jongerius alongside classics from Finnish masters Tapiovaara, Kukkapuro and Artek founder Alvar Aalto.
The Vitra Campus is open to the general public so if you've felt inspired to pay it a visit here are some helpful tips.
Travel : Despite the campus being based in Germany, we'd advise flying into Basel airport.
Accommodation : We stayed at Hotel Nomad and it was lovely (and perfectly situated).
Travel To Campus : The campus is a short drive across the German border (roughly 15 minutes) and there is a regular bus service that runs between the two.
You can find more information on travel instructions, tours etc here.