Commencing in the year 1957, project Vitra was brought to life by husband and wife founders Willi & Erika Fehlbaum. Originally shop fitters, the duo entered the competitive design-led furniture market through the acquisition of the license to produce the Herman Miller collection for the European market. This furniture collection largely contained the designs of Charles & Ray Eames and George Nelson, already world famous designers of the time, which Willi & Erika instantly adored and drove them to obtain the manufacturing rights to produce them in Europe.
The Vitra factory at Weil am Rhein, South-West Germany began the production of these exclusive items, many of which can still be seen today and in 1967 another iconic design piece, the Panton chair by Verner Panton, joined the brand. A seamless blending of architecture and industry, the Vitra project is called as such because it involves much more than simply business, their endeavors are based on the idea that everyday elements of the home hold great potential for improved aesthetic enjoyment.
With a purpose to enrich everyday lives through innovative design, the Vitra project spans across all areas of the company from products & interior concepts, to architecture & the collections and finally to Vitra’s approach to both designers & customers.
As one of the first designers to work alongside Vitra, Charles Eames has had the most enduring influence on the brand with many of his designs as popular today as when first introduced. His view that design should primarily be the ‘recognition of need’, Eames has always warned against stylistic excesses. He believes that designers should devote themselves to the task of problem solving for their customers and practice self-restraint to provide solutions for daily living.
Design in this sense still requires a level of authorship whilst offering superior practical capabilities and therefore Vitra works exclusively with designers who demonstrate not only creative skill but a personal world view exemplified in their work. Each designers’ creation bears their own individual message that extends beyond simply trying to please, but infuses effortless functionality and cutting edge design concepts into the home.
Along with Charles & Ray Eames and Verner Panton from the early days of Vitra’s inception, the brand went on to produce some of the finest examples of contemporary home furniture from other leading designers of the time. Working closely with Arik Levy, Jasper Morrison, Jean Prouvé and British design partnership Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby to name but a small few, Vitra have manufactured key iconic and award winning furniture pieces which will stand the test of the time for decades to come.
The Vitra Campus
The architectural park aptly name the Vitra Campus which makes up the brand’s headquarters in Weil am Rhein is as iconic as Vitra’s furniture designs. A collaboration which has spanned over thirty years, the campus houses architectural masterpieces from leading designers, creating a diverse ensemble of contemporary architecture. After a fire devastated the original factory buildings from the 1950s, Vitra jumped on the opportunity to transform the area into a headquarters fit for one of the leading furniture design houses in the world.
Beginning with the reworking of Vitra’s destroyed factory buildings, Nicholas Grimshaw, Frank Gehry and Álvaro Siza envisioned new designs in the 80s & 90s to break away from the usual architecture of these types of facilities. These key buildings provided a base for other designers to add to over the years to form a unique design-led headquarters quite unlike anything else in its field. Later additions include VitraHaus - Vitra’s flagship store by Herzog & de Meuron in 2010, the Fire Station by Zaha Hadid in 1993 (created as a first response unit should a fire ever break out again) and the colossal Dome based on Richard Brukminster Fuller post-war designs in 2000.
The Vitra Campus would not be complete without a series of curiosities dotted around the site which exemplify the brand’s ethos that designers should always leave their own mark on their designs. The Petrol Station by Jean Prouvé, the Bus Stop by Jasper Morrison and the Balancing Tools sculpture by Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, installed for Willi Fehlbaum for his 70th birthday are just a few of the art pieces in residence on the campus.
The Vitra Design Museum
The focal point of the Vitra Campus was built by celebrated Californian architecture Frank Gehry in 1989 and was the first example of his architecture in Europe. Originally envisioned to be a private collector’s museum to exhibit Vitra’s growing collection of chairs and furniture, it was later established as an independent foundation dedicated to the celebration & research of design and architecture. It was from this point the Vitra Design Museum took its place as one of the most well respected institutions of its kind.
A sprawling specimen of deconstructivism, the building includes a collage of towers, ramps and cubes with an impressive exhibition area totaling 700 square meters. Presenting all aspects of design from the past and present, the museum annually holds two exhibitions as well as their own traveling displays which demonstrate design’s relationship to architecture, art and everyday culture.
Vitra offers a varied product selection which blends iconic design knowledge with problem solving functions for everyday use. Their expertly designed chair collection still contains iconic designs from the likes of Charles & Ray Eames, Verner Panton and Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby, ready to infuse your space with both the designers’ and Vitra’s recognizable aesthetics. A fabulous complement to Vitra seating options is their range of side tables and occasional tables, whilst their home accessories including soft furnishings, clocks and even decorative accessories provide the perfect finishing touches to any discerning interior. A world renowned brand which is well respected in both the interior and architectural industries, Vitra continues to design and produce some of the finest examples of homeware available on the market and even their newest additions become instant classics which will be cherished for generations to come.
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