VITRAHAUS DESIGN BY JACQUES HERZOG & PIERRE DE MEURON
VITRAHAUS DESIGN BY JACQUES HERZOG & PIERRE DE MEURON
VitraHaus, Vitra Campus
VitraHaus, Vitra Campus
In January 2004, Vitra launched its Home Collection, which includes design classics as well as re-editions and products by contemporary designers. As a company whose previous activity was primarily focused on office furnishings and business clients, Vitra created the Home Collection with a new target group in mind: individual customers with an interest in design.
Since no interior space was available for the presentation of the Home Collection on the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, the company commissioned Basel-based architects Herzog & de Meuron in 2006 to design the VitraHaus. Thanks to its exposed location and striking appearance, it not only enhances the already outstanding ensemble of Vitra architecture, but assumes the important role of marking the Vitra Campus. Standing on the northern side of the grounds in front of the fenced perimeter of the production premises, the VitraHaus joins two other buildings in this area, the Vitra Design Museum by Frank Gehry (1989) and the Conference Pavilion by Tadao Ando (1993). The ample size of the plot made it possible to position the new structure a good distance away from the Vitra Design Museum and adjacent gatehouse, making room for an extension of the orchard meadow in front of the buildings, a typical feature of the local landscape.
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-storey building is to present furnishings and objects for the home. Due to the proportions and dimensions of the interior spaces – the architects use the term 'domestic scale' – the showrooms are reminiscent of familiar residential settings. The individual 'houses', which have the general characteristics of a display space, are conceived as abstract elements. With just a few exceptions, only the gable ends are glazed, and the structural volumes seem to have been shaped with an extrusion press. Stacked into a total of five storeys and breathtakingly cantilevered up to fifteen metres 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 colour of the exterior stucco skin unifies the structure, 'earths' it and connects it to 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. A lift takes visitors to the fourth storay, where the circular tour begins. Upon exiting the lift, the glazed northern end of the room offers a spectacular view of the Tüllinger Hill. The opposite end – where the glass front is recessed to create an exterior terrace – opens to a panorama of Basel with the industrial facilities of the pharmaceutical sector. 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.
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.
With maximum dimensions of 57 metres in length, 54 metres in width and 21.3 metres 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. 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' (in the words of Herzog & de Meuron) with a suggestive, almost labyrinthine character. On their path through the five storeys, visitors traverse the Vitra Home cosmos, ultimately returning to their starting point.
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.
PIERRE DE MEURON & JACQUES HERZOG
Herzog & de Meuron is a partnership led by five Senior Partners – Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Christine Binswanger, Ascan Mergenthaler and Stefan Marbach.Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron established their office in Basel in 1978. The partnership has grown over the years – Christine Binswanger joined the practice as Partner in 1994, successively followed by Robert Hösl and Ascan Mergenthaler in 2004, Stefan Marbach in 2006, David Koch in 2008, Esther Zumsteg in 2009, Andreas Fries in 2011, and Vladimir Pajkic in 2012. An international team of 31 Associates and about 330 collaborators are working on projects across Europe, North and South America and Asia. The firm’s main office is in Basel with additional offices in Hamburg, London, Madrid, New York and Hong Kong.
Herzog & de Meuron have designed a wide range of projects from the small scale of a private home to the large scale of urban design. While many of their projects are highly recognized public facilities, such as their stadiums and museums, they have also completed several distinguished private projects including apartment buildings, offices and factories. The practice has been awarded numerous prizes including “The Pritzker Architecture Prize“ (USA) in 2001, the “RIBA Royal Gold Medal“ (UK) and the “Praemium Imperiale“ (Japan), both in 2007.
Herzog & de Meuron latest completed project is the new Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, NY, USA. The 115 year old museum opened the doors of its new faclity to the public on 10 November 2012. Herzog & de Meuron are currently working on the New Hall 1 for Messe Basel, Switzerland (planned completion April 2013); Roche Building 1, a 42-storey tower, which will anchor the Roche Basel Site within the urban setting of Basel, Switzerland (planned completion 2015); Actelion Research and Laboratory Building in Allschwil/ Basel, Switzerland (planned completion 2013); Stade Bordeaux Atlantique, a new 43.000 seat stadium for Bordeaux, France (planned completion 2015); Triangle, a new development for the Parc des Expositions at Porte de Versailles in Paris, France (planned completion 2017); Porta Volta Fondazione Feltrinelli, a master plan redefining the Porta Volta in Milan, Italy, consisting of two new office buildings and a generous green area (planned completion 2015); and Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, currently under construction, a mixed-use complex comprising a new philharmonic hall, a hotel, apartments and a public plaza, overlooking the Speicherstadt in Hamburg, Germany. Other current projects include the transformation of the Hong Kong Central Police Station, a high profile conservation project which will revitalise a unique cluster of historic structures in the centre of Hong Kong (planned completion 2014); Beirut Terraces, a multilayered high-rise residential project situated in the heart of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, Lebanon (planned completion 2015); Park Avenue Armory, the ongoing restoration and reinvention of a historical landmark building into a dynamic alternative arts space in New York, USA (projected completion 2015, first two pilot rooms completed in 2011); and the new São Paulo Cultural Complex Luz in São Paulo, Brazil (planned completion 2016), notably Herzog & de Meuron‘s first commission in South America. In May 2012, Herzog & de Meuron won the competition to design a new children’s hospital in Zürich, a project which envisions two complementary buildings of contrasting typology, programme and urban design; More recent projects include the concept study for a new gondola station at an altitude of 2262m, Toggenburg, Switzerland. Herzog & de Meuron have also been developing a residential and archive development in the Dreispitz area, Basel, Switzerland.
Herzog & de Meuron also work on urban designs: Burgos Bulevar, an eleven kilometers long urban landscape development through the city of Burgos, Spain, merging public and private transport with green/ park-like public spaces was completed in April 2012; and the master plan for Lyon Confluence in France, the urban redevelopment of the southern tip of the city‘s peninsula bracketed by the rivers Saône and Rhône (since 2009). In 2011, Herzog & de Meuron were commissioned to design the conceptual masterplan for the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology and its adjacent territories, near Moscow. The architectural vision behind the scheme aims to create a globally reputed centre for innovative twenty-first century technology, offering inherent urban quality through a vibrant mix of uses.
MUSEUM PROJECTS – PAST & CURRENT
The Goetz Collection, a Gallery for a Private Collection of Modern Art in Munich, Germany (1992), stands at the beginning of a series of internationally acclaimed museum buildings, including Museum Küppersmühle in Duisburg, Germany (1999); Schaulager Basel, Laurenz Foundation, a new type of space for art, a warehouse for open storage of contemporary art, in Basel/Münchenstein, Switzerland (2003); followed by Walker Art Center Expansion in Minneapolis, USA (2005); de Young Museum in San Francisco, USA (2005); CaixaForum Madrid, a new exhibition space for Fundación “la Caixa” in Madrid, Spain (2008); and TEA, Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain (2008). Perhaps the firm‘s highest profile museum project is the conversion of the Bankside power plant to Tate Modern in London, UK (2000). In 2005 Herzog & de Meuron were commissioned by Tate again to develop a scheme for the expansion of the gallery and its surrounding areas – The Tate Modern Project is projected for completion in 2016. The first phase of its extension, The Tanks - three circular industrial chambers over thirty metres across and seven metres high dedicated to exhibiting live art, performance, installation and film works - opened this year (18 July to 28 October 2012). The series continues with the Extension Musée Unterlinden in Colmar, France (projected completion 2014); Espacio Goya y Museo de Zaragoza in Zaragoza, Spain (2005- ); the new Pérez Art Museum Miami, Florida, USA (under construction, planned completion 2013); and the Barranca Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Guadalajara, Mexico. In 2008 Herzog & de Meuron were commissioned to design the Kolkata Museum of Modern Art, their first project in India.
RESEARCH & TEACHING Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron are both visiting professors at Harvard University, Graduate School of Design (GSD), USA, since 1994 (and in 1989). They are professors at the Swiss Federal Institute ofTechnology Zurich (ETH) – Department of Architecture, Network City and Landscape, since 1999, and co-founders of the ETH Studio Basel – Contemporary City Institute. The ETH Studio Basel started a research programme on processes of transformation in the urban domain. Their research activities are documented in various publications: “Switzerland. An Urban Portrait” (2006) investigating the urban condition of Switzerland; „Open – Closed: Canary Islands“ (2007) focusing on the urbanisation process on the Canary Islands; and “MetroBasel Comic. A Model of a European Metropolitan Region” (2009) on the development of the tri-national region of MetroBasel.
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