The best architecture park in Europe is a factory and a showroom, stuck to the swiss border in Germany. Another jewel has been erected near the Rhine : the VitraHaus by Herzog & de Meuron is now open, and deserves additional round walks on the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein.
The site is for archi-addicts indeed, if just because of the following recipe (as Edwin Heathcote wrote in the 2nd March’s edition of FT Week-end) :
Zaha Hadid’s first building is here. The jagged construction was to be the town’s fire station, although it proved hopelessly impractical and is now a chair museum.
Frank Gehry’s first building in Europe is here too, the odd-looking collapsing architecture of the Vitra Design Museum (1989) predated the billowing titanium of the Bilbao Guggenheim by nearly a decade.
The main factory building was designed by Nicholas Grimshaw, whose metallic high-tech style perfectly suited the aestheticised industrialism Vitra was seeking.
There is another factory building by Portugal’s Alvaro Siza, arguably the greatest and possibly the subtlest architect working today.
The conference centre is the European debut of Japanese architect Tadao Ando, while the petrol station came from the French pioneer of the engineering aesthetic, Jean Prouvé.
Under construction is a building by Japanese practice Sanaa, famed for its diaphanous, ethereal architecture. Even the bus shelter is by British industrial designer Jasper Morrison.
And now, most visibly, there is that blackened pile of extruded houses, the Vitrahaus, by local architects Herzog & de Meuron. Known for their radical and never less than striking designs, from the Beijing Olympic Stadium to London’s Tate Modern, they are at the top of their game. But what they are designing here is effectively a furniture showroom on an industrial estate.
Zone polyglotte à la croisée de trois frontières, la visite est également en français aux bons soins de l’Express pour découvrir le nouveau bâtiment.
– Imaginer des bâtiments construits par des architectes qui n’étaient, avant la gloire large, pas tous si reconnus. Retrouver Nicolas Grenshaw, Alvaro Siza, Tadao Ando, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Jean Prouvé, Richard Buckminster Fuller et bientôt Herzog & de Meuron sur quelques hectares à Weil am Rhein, en Allemagne aux portes de Basel, où Vitra implante ses usines d’assemblage, son Musée et son centre de séminaire. S’assoir avec art, se rendre au coin des 3 frontières au bord du Rhin et se rappeler que le design est la rencontre entre des fonctions, des formes, des matières et des lumières.
– « Vitra » @ArchiOL.