Herzog & de Meuron
A series of spatial surprises, a "secret world," with a suggestive, almost labyrinthine character.
The concept of the VitraHaus connects two themes that appear repeatedly in the oeuvre of Herzog & de Meuron: the theme of the archetypal house and the theme of stacked volumes. In Weil am Rhein, it was especially appropriate to return to the idea of the ur-house, since the primary purpose of the five-story building is to present furnishings and objects for the home.
Just as interior and exterior spaces interpenetrate, so do two types of forms: the orthogonal-polygonal, as perceived from the exterior, and the organic, which produces a series of spatial surprises in the interior, a "secret world" with a suggestive, almost labyrinthine character./Herzog & de Meuron
The individual "houses," which have the general characteristics of a display space, are conceived as abstract elements. Stacked into a total of five stories and cantilevered up to fifteen meters in some places, the twelve houses, whose floor slabs intersect the underlying gables, create a three-dimensional assemblage - a pile of houses that, at first glance, has an almost chaotic appearance. The charcoal color of the exterior stucco skin unifies the structure, "earthes" it and connects it to the surrounding landscape.
With just a few exceptions, only the gable ends are glazed, and the structural volumes seem to have been shaped with an extrusion press. As one discovers on the path through the VitraHaus, the directional orientation of the houses is hardly arbitrary, but is determined by the views of the surrounding landscape.
Like a small, vertically layered city, the VitraHaus functions as an entryway to the Campus. A wooden plank floor defines an open central area, around which five buildings are grouped: a conference area, an exhibition space for the chair collection of the Vitra Design Museum and a conglomerate comprising the Vitra Design Museum Shop, the lobby with a reception area and cloakroom, and a café with an outdoor terrace for summer use.
The complexity of the interior space arises not only from the angular intersection of the individual houses but also from the integration of a second geometrical concept.
All of the staircases are integrated into expansive, winding organic volumes that figuratively eat their way through the various levels of the building like a worm, sometimes revealing fascinating visual relationships between the various houses, at other times blocking the view. The interior walls are finished in white in order to give priority to the furniture displays.
The VitraHaus has a daytime view and a night time view. In the evening, the perspective is reversed. During the day, one gazes out of the VitraHaus into the landscape, but when darkness falls, the illuminated interior of the building glows from within, while its physical structure seems to dissipate.
The rooms open up; the glazed gable ends turn into display cases that shine across the Vitra Campus and into the surrounding countryside.
With maximum dimensions of 57 meters in length, 54 meters in width and 21.3 meters in height, the VitraHaus rises above the other buildings on the Vitra Campus. The deliberate intention was not to create a horizontal building, the common type for production facilities, but rather a vertically oriented structure with a small footprint, which grants an overview in multiple senses: an overview of the surrounding landscape and the factory premises, but also an overview of the Home Collection
Facts about Vitra Haus
Building Footprint: 1,324 m2
Herzog & de Meuron
Project Team Partners:
Pierre de Meuron
Charlotte von Moos,
Krebser und Freyle
Mayer Baehrle Freie Architekten BDA,
ZPF Ingenieure AG
August Künzel Landschaftsarchitekten AG
Krebser und Freyler
Vitra Verwaltungs GmbH
Last updated: December 19, 2013
Seattle, Washington, USA