The Vitra campus, a design and educational ecosystem
Swiss furniture manufacturer Vitra has opened, on the site of its historic factory, a park designed as an ecosystem dedicated to architecture, design and art.
Opened in 1989 in Weil Am Rhein in Germany, the Vitra Design Campus has been built on the ashes of the former Vitra factory, which was ravaged by fire in 1981. This 25-hectare park now accommodates the brand’s new industrial site and is a flagship dedicated to its values.
An artistic mission
Entrance to the park is free and allows visitors to walk between the buildings and works of art which are displayed in this space where nature and design cohabit to perfection.
The first thing you notice on arrival at the campus is the sculpture offered to the founder by his children: a collection of giant tools. It reminds visitors of the link between the fundamental values of the brand, craftsmanship and art, which is found in all Vitra products.
The path of the park next leads visitors to the Vitra Design Museum, featuring original architecture, designed to represent the total deconstruction of a classic building featuring a rich collection of furniture and chairs.
Visitors are invited to travel through the evolution of design, which is a way for the brand to demonstrate its contribution to design through the exhibition of flagship models.
The visit to the park is punctuated by artistic interludes in the form of concept sculptures carefully distributed in this natural, verdant environment. There is also the Vitra-Tour Toboggan, which overlooks the park from a height of 31 metres. The campus, in its entirety, is designed as a coherent ecosystem, a living work of art dedicated to design.
Layout and functionality: a park in the brand’s image
The Vitra Campus is nevertheless a production site, with its four halls dedicated to the manufacture of Vitra products. Located in the heart of the park, they are carefully organised to fit into the ecosystem and reflect its aesthetic.
In the same way as the brand’s products, the architecture in these production sites combines design and functionality. So the Sanaa hall, built to optimise logistic processes on site and provide 240 parking spaces for delivery lorries, contains a bridge which lowers automatically in the event of rain to protect the vehicles.
The Frank Gehry production hall features, as well as workshops, a versatile space that can serve as a showroom, a canteen, offices or even a testing area for Vitra products. This hall illustrates the ambition of the Swiss manufacturer: to produce adaptable, aesthetic furniture while saving space.
This wish is found in the ‘Hack’ collection of 2016: desks that can be transformed into storage boxes or unpacked and transported easily in just a few movements. Intended with start-ups in mind, this furniture is designed to adapt to the constant changes which they face.
Finally, the site invites visitors to serious reflection on the place of man in nature. So we find just outside one hall a Diogenes refuge which in the space of just 6m2 has all the basic functions of temporary accommodation. Vitra shows through this initiative that functionality and ecology are inextricably linked.
An innovative gift shop
The shop that presents the furniture in the Vitra home collection is itself an impressive structure, built as a stack of 12 houses.
Vitra products are presented in a carefully organised environment, with a design of an ideal comfortable home. Potential customers can more easily imagine how products would fit in their homes, while other visitors discover this unusual site as if it were a museum.
The store also features a cafe-restaurant, which offers light, refined European cuisine with fresh products served in sleek, functional plates, in the same way that the brand recreates classic decor and architecture using contemporary aesthetic and functional trends.
The restaurant’s architecture, with its gable roof and large bay windows giving a panoramic view of the park, allows visitors to enjoy their meals in a universe that is both reassuring and open, while being at one, at least visually, with nature.
Finally, Vitra provides a food truck in polished steel which serves as a takeaway bar in summer when the warm weather allows people to picnic on the grass, in the midst of the sculptures and buildings on campus. The reflective, curved surface of the vehicle allows it to blend into to the bucolic décor of the park.
This original site, designed as a beginner’s guide to the innovations of the brand in the areas of design, architecture and art, allows visitors to discover a unique, avant-garde experience.
Vitra aims to show, through its campus, that it has created a world around its products and values, reflecting a certain way of life. In doing so the brand combines comfort, adaptability, functionality and design in all aspects of daily life, from the layout of a house to food and even the life of business and industry.