Slide Tower by Carsten Holler

Founded by Willi and Erika Fehlbaum, Vitra began making office furniture in 1957 licensing the rights to the Herman Miller collection, primarily the designs of Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson and Verner Panton. Today Vitra’s product line has expanded to include furniture for homes and public spaces and include designs by Alexander Girard Jean Prouvé, Antonio Citterio, Jasper Morrison, Alberto Meda, Maarten van Severen, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Hella Jongerius and Barber Osgerby.

Before entering the Design Museum we decided to take the Vitra Campus Architecture Tour. While not all inclusive here are some of my favorite photos from the tour.


 Designed by Carsten Holler combining an observation deck a clock tower and enclosed spiral slide the tower is both architecture and art. Visitors can climb the open staircase to the observation deck for a panoramic view of the Campus and surrounding area then descend using the 38 meter long, covered spiral slide. The tower is 30 meters high topped with a round, illuminated clock face 6 meters in diameter.

Factory Building, SANNA architects

Designed by Japanese architects SANAA and completed in 2012, the Vitrashop Factory Building is oval shaped making it easier for large trucks (lorries) to maneuver. The building is two semi-circular concrete shells that are connected. The outer shell is  rippled acrylic giving it a curtain like appearance. There is an underground garage for employees with 240 parking spaces. There are numerous skylights in the roof to reduce the need for artificial illumination.

Furniture assembly, Vitrashop Factory    


Vitra Design Museum, Frank Gehry 1989

Designed to house Vitra’s collection of chairs and furniture for display to the public, Frank Gehry’s deconstructionist building consists of multiple towers, ramps and cubes each designed according to function and lighting. It is Frank Gehry’s first European building. The museum was established as an independent foundation dedication to research and popularization of architecture and design.

Dome, Richard Buckminster Fuller

During WWII Richard Buckminster Fuller designed a geodesic dome to house army troops and shelter wounded and refugess. The building was able to be assembled and dis-assembled quickly due to the plug-in aluminum tubes that formed the frame. This particular dome was used as a car showroom in Detroit then was bought at auction by Rolf Fehlbaum in 2000 and erected at the Vitra Campus where it is used as an exhibition and event space. 

Airstream Kiosk 1968/2011  

  Discovered in Nevada by a scout, this 20 ft. 1968 “Globetrotter” was purchased and shipped to Germany for restoration. It was purchased by Vitra in 2011 and converted into a food kiosk.

Petrol Station, Jean Prouve 1953/2003

Designed in 1953 by Jean Prouve and his brother Henry this aluminum building was the first mass produced filling station. It was built for Mobiloil Socony-Vacuum. It’s modular construction is of prefabricated aluminum components and sheeting with circular cut outs. The structure and wall components are clearly differentiated by a contrasting color scheme. Like Prouve’s table designs his buildings adhere to tectonic principles in the design process.

Fire Station, Zaha Hadid,1993     

After a fire in 1981 Vitra decided to build a fire station of their own. Made of colorless poured concrete and void of right angles the Fire Station is the first building complex designed by Zaha Hadid. There are spaces for fire engines, changing rooms and showers as well as conference room and kitchen. The fire brigade was later disbanded in favor of protection by both the Weil and Basel fire services.

Balancing Tools, Claes Oldenberg & Coosje van Bruggen, 1984  

 Balancing Tools was a gift to Willi Fehlbaum, Vitra’s founder, from his children on his 70th birthday. Erected between the main road and the Vitra campus, they are the tools of the furniture maker.

As I mentioned before this post is not an all inclusive, just some of the images I was able to make given the constraints of a group tour, weather, time and the fact that this was a family vacation.  

For my next post we’ll take a look at some of the furniture inside the museum. 
Other posts from our trip to Germany