Vitra Campus, Germany / by Alastair Wiper

Factory Building, Frank Gehry, 1989

Factory Building, Frank Gehry, 1989

Vitra is a family owned Swiss furniture company that was founded in 1957. The company made it's name by selling designs from some of the most famous furniture designers in the world such as Charles and Ray Eames, Verner Panton and George Nelson, and today it's campus is a place of pilgrimage for architecture and design lovers.

The company's production facilities are located just over the German border, close to Basel, in Weil am Rhein. In 1981 a huge fire destroyed much of the factory, and this led to the commissioning of British architect Nicholas Grimshaw to rebuild the campus. After completion of one building however, the company became inspired by the work of Frank Gehry, and invited him to build a factory building, his first in Europe. The company had also amassed a huge collection of chairs and other furniture, and opened a museum (also designed by Gehry) in order to show it to the public. This led to other notable architects and artists being invited to build on the campus, and today the area contains a who's who of buildings and sculptures by some of the most famous designers in the world such as Herzog & de Meuron, Jean Prouvé, Tadao Ando, Clæs Oldenburg, SANAA, Alvaro Siza and Carsten Höller. Zaha Hadid built the fire station here in 1993, her first ever completed building.

I visited on a cold day in December 2016, for Esquire Black Book.

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