Touring Vitra Campus, Part 1

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September 29, 2011

The Vitra Campus in Weil-am-Rhein, Germany, is design-heaven on Earth. Since the 1950s, it has been home to Vitra's furniture production (the company headquarters are located across the border in Switzerland), and it's grown to include the renowned Vitra Design Museum and a handful of the world's best-known buildings by the world's the best-known architects and designers. I hopped the bus from Basel, Switzerland, to take a tour of the campus.

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  Before even setting foot on the Vitra Campus, guests who travel by bus (like me) are welcomed by bus shelters designed in 2006 by Jasper Morrison.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Before even setting foot on the Vitra Campus, guests who travel by bus (like me) are welcomed by bus shelters designed in 2006 by Jasper Morrison.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Inside, the modern structures are equipped with three Wire Chairs (sans legs), classics designed by Charles and Ray Eames.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Inside, the modern structures are equipped with three Wire Chairs (sans legs), classics designed by Charles and Ray Eames.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  On campus, only the Vitra Design Museum and the VitraHaus are open to the public on a regular basis. Visitors can walk around Tadao Ando's Conference Pavilion but not inside, and the rest of the structures stand behind Vitra's security gates as they are intermixed with and include the working factory buildings.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    On campus, only the Vitra Design Museum and the VitraHaus are open to the public on a regular basis. Visitors can walk around Tadao Ando's Conference Pavilion but not inside, and the rest of the structures stand behind Vitra's security gates as they are intermixed with and include the working factory buildings.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The Vitra Design Museum is housed in this iconic building by Frank Gehry. Built in 1989, it's the earliest non-factory structure on campus. The factory and the gate that he built in tandem with the museum all share the the same aesthetic: white walls, dark roofs, a square structure on one side, and a round form on the other. Though the white walls stand out in the landscape on a bright fall day, the color was specified in order to help it blend in with surroundings. The land on which the Vitra Campus is located is a cherry field and when the flowers bloom, the building disappears among the pale pink and white flowers.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The Vitra Design Museum is housed in this iconic building by Frank Gehry. Built in 1989, it's the earliest non-factory structure on campus. The factory and the gate that he built in tandem with the museum all share the the same aesthetic: white walls, dark roofs, a square structure on one side, and a round form on the other. Though the white walls stand out in the landscape on a bright fall day, the color was specified in order to help it blend in with surroundings. The land on which the Vitra Campus is located is a cherry field and when the flowers bloom, the building disappears among the pale pink and white flowers.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The Vitra Design Museum originally housed a permanent chair collection. In 1994, however, the curators moved the chair collection to Zaha Hadid's Fire Station, which was transformed from firehouse to gallery (see more in part two), and introduced a program of temporary exhibitions. The outstanding exhibits that the museum creates often go on to travel from continent to continent and for years on end. While I was there, the fantastic exhibition "Zoom: Italian Design and the Photography of Aldo and Marirosa Ballo" was on display.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The Vitra Design Museum originally housed a permanent chair collection. In 1994, however, the curators moved the chair collection to Zaha Hadid's Fire Station, which was transformed from firehouse to gallery (see more in part two), and introduced a program of temporary exhibitions. The outstanding exhibits that the museum creates often go on to travel from continent to continent and for years on end. While I was there, the fantastic exhibition "Zoom: Italian Design and the Photography of Aldo and Marirosa Ballo" was on display.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The newest completed building on campus is the VitraHaus, designed by Basel-based firm Herzog & de Meuron in 2010. The structure features seven balancing longhouses, and its design took the world by storm when first presented and then completed. The entire building is made of poured-in-place concrete and covered with a gray plaster on top and boasts local fir siding at its base. (Check back soon for a post highlighting the VitraHaus.)  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The newest completed building on campus is the VitraHaus, designed by Basel-based firm Herzog & de Meuron in 2010. The structure features seven balancing longhouses, and its design took the world by storm when first presented and then completed. The entire building is made of poured-in-place concrete and covered with a gray plaster on top and boasts local fir siding at its base. (Check back soon for a post highlighting the VitraHaus.)

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The 43,000-square-foot building houses the entire Vitra collection, which is shown in stunning vignettes that make you want to unpack your bags and move right in. Isamu Noguchi is the star of this setup, with his Dining Table, Coffee Table, and many of his lamps on display. The Eames reappear with their DAR Plastic Armchair and the Eames House Bird.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The 43,000-square-foot building houses the entire Vitra collection, which is shown in stunning vignettes that make you want to unpack your bags and move right in. Isamu Noguchi is the star of this setup, with his Dining Table, Coffee Table, and many of his lamps on display. The Eames reappear with their DAR Plastic Armchair and the Eames House Bird.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Inside the VitraHaus is the Lounge Chair Atelier, where Eames Lounge Chairs are assembled and tested in front of visitors before being shipped to customers.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Inside the VitraHaus is the Lounge Chair Atelier, where Eames Lounge Chairs are assembled and tested in front of visitors before being shipped to customers.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The uppermost longhouse of the VitraHaus opens onto a balcony. This view overlooks Gehry's factory and Buckminster Fuller's Dome.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The uppermost longhouse of the VitraHaus opens onto a balcony. This view overlooks Gehry's factory and Buckminster Fuller's Dome.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  This geodesic dome was originally built in Detroit, Michigan, in 1978. It had been used as a car showroom but became available for sale in 2000. Seizing the opportunity, Vitra purchased the dome and shipped it to Weil-am-Rhein, a simple task since Fuller designed his domes to be temporary structures and thus easily constructed and deconstructed.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    This geodesic dome was originally built in Detroit, Michigan, in 1978. It had been used as a car showroom but became available for sale in 2000. Seizing the opportunity, Vitra purchased the dome and shipped it to Weil-am-Rhein, a simple task since Fuller designed his domes to be temporary structures and thus easily constructed and deconstructed.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The dome covering is made up of individual pieces of vinyl that are attached together with seams that create a beautiful star- and flower-like pattern on the inside. On the Vitra Campus, the space is used for events, shows, exhibitions, and concerts.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The dome covering is made up of individual pieces of vinyl that are attached together with seams that create a beautiful star- and flower-like pattern on the inside. On the Vitra Campus, the space is used for events, shows, exhibitions, and concerts.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  Next to Fuller's Dome is another building that is not original to the Vitra Campus. In the 1950s, Jean Prouvé designed a series of gas stations that were built in France. This one was constructed in 1953 and, like the rest, was made as a kit of parts, including six roof modules that are visible via the seams in the roof. Vitra recently began remaking Prouvé's furniture; the chair and table inside the structure are of Prouvé's design.  Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    Next to Fuller's Dome is another building that is not original to the Vitra Campus. In the 1950s, Jean Prouvé designed a series of gas stations that were built in France. This one was constructed in 1953 and, like the rest, was made as a kit of parts, including six roof modules that are visible via the seams in the roof. Vitra recently began remaking Prouvé's furniture; the chair and table inside the structure are of Prouvé's design.

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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  The newest building on the campus is Sanaa's factory, listed in the campus guide with a 2010 completion date but not technically finished. The unusual oval-shape structure has been fully operational for nearly two years but the cladding has yet to be completed, which is why it appears as the black shape between two of the other factory buildings. Check back soon: We continue the tour of the Vitra Campus in part two. Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our  FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!   Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake
    The newest building on the campus is Sanaa's factory, listed in the campus guide with a 2010 completion date but not technically finished. The unusual oval-shape structure has been fully operational for nearly two years but the cladding has yet to be completed, which is why it appears as the black shape between two of the other factory buildings. Check back soon: We continue the tour of the Vitra Campus in part two.

    Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

    Photo by: Miyoko Ohtake

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