The Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany is an obligatory stop for the traveling design enthusiast. A part of the huge collection of furniture is now on display at the new Vitra Schaudepot.
With less than thirty thousand inhabitants, Weil am Rhein would only get kudos for being the most southwestern municipality of Germany - if it weren't for design brand Vitra's factories just outside its center. Vitra was founded in 1950 by Willi and Erika Fehlbaum and started bringing furniture from Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson and Vernor Panton among others to the European market from 1957 on.
On July 20, 1981 a fire breaks out in the Vitra factory. 35 years later it appears to be a blessing in disguise. Initially director Rolf Fehlbaum has British architect Nicholas Grimshaw designing a master plan for the site. But after a meeting with the American architect Frank Gehry, he decides instead to construct a collage of buildings. The result is the eclectic Vitra Campus with buildings designed by among others Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando and Álvaro Siza.
Vitra Design Museum
Since the opening of the new Vitra Schaudepot the Vitra Campus also has a northern entrance. However, we will start this tour at the southern main entrance along the Römerstraße. Behind the bus stop by Jasper Morrison you can see the Vitra Design Museum with next to it the Vitra Design Museum Gallery, both designed by Frank Gehry. The museum uses the pieces from the private collection of Rolf Fehlbaum for temporary exhibitions, the gallery has room for smaller, experimental exhibitions. Behind the Design Museum, in a corner of the campus, you can see the Conference Pavilion, the first foreign building by Japanese architect Tadao Ando.
If you turn right rather than left behind the bus stop, you walk straight to the VitraHaus. Vitra itself defines it as "the flagshipe store of the Vitra Home Collection". Unlike in traditional museums, you are allowed to touch the works of art on display. So feel free to take place in the exhibited interiors and get inspired for your home.
Walking further from the south to the north entrance, you pass along Vitra's three factory halls, designed by Grimshaw, Gehry and Siza. On your right you see a Richard Buckminster Füller designed dome that used to be a car showroom in Detroit and a charming 1950 petrol station by Jean Prouvé. The plans for the Logistics & Production Hall in the behind left corner were drawn by the Japanese duo SANAA.
Our tour stops at the most beautiful unused fire station in the world. It was the first completed building in the world designed by the recently deceased British architect Zaha Hadid. For a time it was home to Vitra's impressive collection of designer chairs.
The 7000 design classics collected by the Fehlbaum family were recently moved to the Vitra Schaudepot, located right next to the fire station. Like the VitraHaus, the Schaudepot is a design by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. 400 pieces of furniture are continously on display in the brand new building, with a history from Bentwood to 3D printing. In the basement you can see through four large windows the rest of the collection, which was stored previously out of the audience's sight. Did we already mention that the Vitra Campus is a must for every design lover?