VITRA INTERNATIONAL HEADQUARTERS
Photo: Tim Griffith/Esto
The project is a master planned development with the first phase being a 62,000 square foot new corporate office building. It is on a suburban site in Birsfelden, outside Basel, bounded by a low rise Vitra manufacturing building on one side, and a small converted office structure on the other. The surrounding neighborhood contains a mixture of light manufacturing, offices, houses, and garden apartments. To the east is a dense forest reserve, visually tied to but physically severed from the site by an autobahn submerged well below grade. The existing zoning required a building of less than ten meters in height. Parking was required at a rate of one car for every three employees on site, including existing uses.
Programmatically, the building is to house various working groups which require "changeable" office planning in a way which will allow them to demonstrate and experiment with their own furniture lines. The offices also become showrooms, so a relatively neutral space was designed for this program element. Much research was done to investigate state-of-the-art office space before the project began. As a result, "combi office" and "office landscape" types will be accommodated as well as more traditional closed and open offices. The strict energy codes of Switzerland mandate that there be no air-conditioning for offices, so natural ventilation is accommodated by opening windows and the entirely shaded south wall under the large wing shaped canopy.
In addition to the office block, there are more "permanent" communal support areas such as the main entrance/reception, cafeteria, switchboard, mail, meeting and conference rooms. Since these spaces were thought of as less changeable and are used by all departments of the company, including off-site personnel, it was decided that they should be located centrally and allow for future expansion of offices around them. The nature of these spaces also allowed them to take on richer, sculpted shapes. The size and proportion of this element is similar to the scale of some of the existing homes nearby; it thus became dubbed "the villa". Inside the villa, conference and meeting space interiors are enhanced by strong colors and custom light fixtures of sculptural shapes including a fish form. The wing canopy houses a "living room" atrium and formally mediates between the simple office block and the central, energetic villa.
Architecturally, the building responds to the varied scale and conditions of its context. It welcomes visitors and workers alike and provides a strong, unique image for the company within its own workspace/ showroom. The structure of the building is concrete and masonry. The external materials are a combination of painted stucco, zinc metal panels, and wood-framed doors and operable windows.
|Client:||Vitra International Ltd.
|Area:||6,200 square meters|
|Schedule:||Begin Design - 1988
Begin Construction - 1992
Completion - 1994
|Frank O. Gehry
Robert G. Hale
James M. Glymph
|- Design Principal
- Project Principal
- Project Designer/Architect
- Project Team