VITRA CAMPUS PILGRIMAGE
Updated: Nov 8, 2022
From trends to timeless. This weekend I immersed myself in the oasis of modern architecture and immortal design – the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein. An ensemble of spontaneously appeared works of world architects such as Herzog & De Meuron, Zaha Hadid, Frank O. Gehry, many of them – from their early years, each building with its philosophy, in a harmonious heterogeneous inviting landscape.
So much to explore, and nothing is bothering. This diversity and at the same time harmony of styles and approaches does not overwhelm, but leaves enough space. The abundance of space allows, for example, to build a relationship with each building by distance. To keep enough space to approach... or not to. The eye lingers on random objects that have been intentionally placed their place on the lawn or in some other perfect spot in the view – there is plenty of room for architects' playfulness! The buildings respect each other and are intentionally placed and designed in relation to each other. This gives the campus its uniqueness.
There is no one obvious tour here, no clear "customer journey." The architecture is there, providing an environment to simply be, to stay present in the moment. At least that's how I felt about it. You are not forced to run to the next station because the planner thought so. I had time and was able to use it for my observer moments as well. For example, now I know what that Vitra-Birdie is 😄! The meadows are crowded with rooks this time of year. These black rascals somehow fit in perfectly among all the colorful Eames Chairs outside 🐦.
My new star architect is Tadao Ando. I found myself in his approach to architecture that must not be taller than the beautiful cherry trees around it, and not disturb them. The conference pavilion is pretty easy to miss. Suddenly you're just standing next to it! How egoless of Tadao. And this as his first project outside Japan. Hat off, I could never design like this, so quiet and embracing. I have to learn from him a lot. Picked up a book about him, it's a 5 hour drive back though.
Vitra, the Fehlbaum family, made it all possible! For me, it's a fabulous example of a family business courageously moving with the times, playfully responding to society and thereby staying on the ball. Without limiting it to their own products, they have created a platform for design junkies, where somehow everyone is welcome. I wish renowned family companies in Germany would take an example from them. This progressive philosophy runs through everything. Here lives the spirit of aesthetics, of playful experimental design approaches in harmony with timeless icons, with history and respect for serendipity. Not that I'm singing a song to Vitra – I love it here! I'll keep coming back, next time with my family.
I brought back a few more insights about color, the language of form and style, digital development and our society. Such cloudy impressions are not a single closed story, but for me this is the best way of inspiration. They weave themselves into my thinking and can be glimpsed later in my discoveries and designs. I'm always learning new things and I should always be open and grateful for that 🙏. Sometimes it's hard to see yourself not knowing.... but it's kind of a patriarchal thing. Refilled and tired, I ride back looking forward to the next time, new challenges, contacts, projects and coincidences. Let me hear from you soon!