Sunday, May 20, 2012


(Last post before being updated with all the photos on my computer. I may take a pause on blogging in favor of having more time for other things)

Vitra got started as a furniture manufacturer by gaining the rights to produce furniture which they fell in love with on a tour of the shopfronts in the US. Now they hold the rights to most of the best known designer furniture brands and also produce pieces of their own. The campus is a little bit of an architecture zoo, which began after the campus burnt down and needed to be rebuilt. Gehry suggested having a campus as diverse and well-designed as the furniture produced. Since then, the number of buildings designed by Pritzker Prize architects on the grounds has increased to six.

I'm not sure if this is always true, but many of the buildings felt underused, like sculptures in an exhibition rather than a holder of a manufacturing facility.

Vitra Elephants [photo by Paulis Austrins]
HdM - VitraHaus

Fuller - Geodesic Dome
[photo by Paulis Austrins]

Siza - Atelier and Bridge
The story of the fire station is interesting, as originally the campus was too far away from the city to have proper fire protection, after the big fire, a set of employees became trained as firemen specifically for the campus.  Zaha was directly comissioned for the project as a young architect who had won many competitions but never had a client willing to build her unconventional designs. This was her first project. I admire that she stuck to her ideas of movement and energy in architecture even when those ideas were new and unaccepted by construction and clientele, and am glad Vitra allowed those ambitions to come into being.

Zaha - Vitra Fire Station

Ando's story is also notable, as he came from a poor background, but very interested in architecture and being able to travel to see architectural works. In order to have the money to make this wish come true, he went into boxing and was successful enough to have the money both to travel and to open his own practice upon returning to Japan.

This is one of his early projects. A very Japanese, meditative take to the experience of going to a conference.

Ando - Conference Center [photo by Paulis Austrins]

After a lot of potatoes, chocolate, and spending the night at the classiest hostel ever (similar in quality to some of the nicer hotels I've been to), we toured around Basel, looking at older Herzog and de Meuron buildings around town.

Below is the Railway Signal Box by Herzog and de Meuron. It was one of the projects noted by the Pritzer Prize jury when HdM received that prize. It is simple, industrial, and sculptural. The strips of copper are twisted to allow daylight into spaces inside.

HdM - Signal Box

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