Vitra's Weil-am-Rhein, Germany, campus boasts not only the production facilities of the famous furniture manufacturer but also numerous iconic buildings by world-renowned architects. In Touring Vitra Campus, Part 1, we explored Jasper Morrison's bus shelters, Frank Gehry's Vitra Design Museum and factory building, Herzog & de Meuron's VitraHaus, Buckminster Fuller's dome, Jean Prouvé's petrol station, and SANAA's soon-to-be-completed factory. Here, we continue the tour with a look at Álvaro Siza's factory building and peeks inside Zaha Hadid's Fire Station (her first building in Europe) as well as Tadao Ando's Conference Pavilion.
Álvaro Siza's factory building and Zaha Hadid's Fire Station were completed within less than a year of each other (the Fire Station in 1993 and the factory building in 1994). Though Siza's brick building appears simple if not plain, it was designed to look decidedly different than the other structures on campus. Its facade of bricks is unusual as the material is not typically used in southern Germany. The bridge that Siza designed connects his building with Nicholas Grimshaw's factory to the left (completed in 1986) and acts to frame Hadid's Fire Station.
A section of Siza's bridge lowers when it rains. Workers frequently zip back and forth between Siza's and Grimshaw's buildings carrying materials on small trolleys and the bridge acts as a roof. This images shows the tracks along which the bridge section slides down the concrete wall. The hole in the underside of the bridge funnels water into the post below so it doesn't drain off the sides and get swept up by the wind and splashed onto workers.
You'd never guess by looking at it but Hadid's 1993 Fire Station for Vitra was in fact designed to be a working fire station. Vitra had experienced a devastating factory fire in 1980s in which half of the halls burned down and production came to a complete and total stop. The local town did not then have a fire station and so trucks from the next town over had to come to put it out.
Hadid's building was commissioned in 1991 and designed to house five trucks in the large space shown here. The wall panels on the right slide open and allowed trucks to move in and out of the structure. Eight months after completion, however, the fire station was closed; the local town had created its own station, which was large enough to serve the factory. The curators of the Vitra Design Museum had apparently been hankering for more space and quickly moved the permanent chair collection, formerly on display in the Gehry building, to Hadid's Fire Station. This move enabled the curators to develop the museum's program of temporary, traveling exhibits, which Vitra is now known for around the world.
Nearly all of the walls inside the Fire Station stand on an angle, creating a slighting uneasy feeling when one is inside the building. This shot shows the second floor, which houses the clubhouse.
From the rooftop deck of the Fire Station, the view looks back over the campus and toward the rolling hills across the road. To the right is one of Grimshaw's factories. It was built in a rush after the 1980s fires and because many of the parts were prefabricated, it was completed in just four short months.
In the midst of Gehry's sculptural Vitra Design Museum and Herzog & de Meuron's VitraHaus is Tadao Ando's demure Conference Pavilion, completed in 1993. Ando designed the path that leads to the structure as a single-file lane that doesn't lead directly to the building but rather on a bit of a roundabout route that lets you enjoy the Balancing Tools sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen and views of other structures on the campus before guiding you around the concrete wall that blocks the building entrance from view.
The concrete was poured in forms on site, a location that originally was and still is scattered with cherry trees. Though not intentional, several cherry tree leaves fell into the forms, creating three impressions in the concrete wall (two of which are shown here).
The interior of the angular building is filled with beautiful curved spaces in a simple palette of metal, concrete, wood, and glass.
Though the conference rooms look onto the busy road outside the building, inside it is perfectly quiet and they are contemplative spaces.
The lower level of Ando's two-story structure is sunken below the ground. From the inside, the top of the concrete wall that surrounds the courtyard lines up so that it appears as if the cars driving on the road next to the building are driving on top of the concrete wall instead. To learn more about visiting the Vitra campus, visit design-museum.de.