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Herzog & de Meuron: Vitra Haus

Vitra's stunning new stacked houses showroom by Herzog & de Meuron

by Brian Fichtner in Design on 19 February 2010

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While the disheveled stacking of boxes seems to be a rampant gesture in today's architecture, the new Vitra Haus by architects Herzog & de Meuron proves that, if done correctly, the conceit can create a thrilling, dynamic structure both inside and out. The new building (the first addition to the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany since Frank Gehry's 1989 building for the Vitra Design Museum) serves as one giant showroom for the brand's home collection of classic and contemporary furniture.

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Comprised of 12 houses stacked upon one another like sticks, the five story structure begins with a base of five houses, with the remaining seven layered in intersecting paths above. While the layout seems quite random, the long volumes jockeying for position, the axes were carefully plotted to frame the most engaging views of the surrounding campus and countryside.

Herzog & de Meuron's stroke of genius herein lies in their ability to transcend mere metaphor. Sure the Vitra Haus plays with the notion of a rudimentary A-frame structure, extruded and stacked like so many logs. But the building reads as a kinetic statement, the intersections and cantilevered volumes highlighting the way in which design (the furniture inside) is part of an exciting timeline where conflicting ideas collide, share space and veer off from one another once more.

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Inside, walls slice through one another, floors run through vaulted ceilings and spiral stairways drill down through layers, adding a fluid curvature to an interior rife with angles. Each house within the structure serves as a unique showroom for the Vitra home collection, offering a variety of ways in which to view the furniture.

In one space, a grouping of Eames furniture commingles beside a window overlooking the car park. In another vaulted space, one finds Hella Jongerius Polder sofas lounging amicably with mid-century pieces like the Prouve lounge chair and Panton Living Towers. In still another space, individual pieces are displayed in more traditional showroom fashion, framed with blue taping on the floors.

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The Vitra Haus looks fascinating from every angle. A few pictures can't do the design justice. However, the U.K. design blog designboom has gotten a fantastic first look, publishing a stockpile of images (including these) from both the exterior and interior.

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