herzog and de meuron: vitrahaus exterior herzog and de meuron: vitrahaus exterior
feb 19, 2010

herzog and de meuron: vitrahaus exterior

herzog and de meuron: vitrahaus exteriorvitrahaus –architecture by herzog & de meuron photo by iwan baan, image © vitra




in january 2004, vitra launched its home collection, which includes design classics as well as re-editions and products by contemporary designers. it was created in order to target individual customers with an interest in design. as there was no interior space available for the presentation of the home collection on the vitra campus in weil am rhein, between the border of switzerland and germany, the company commissioned the basel-based architects herzog & de meuron in 2006 to design the ‘vitrahaus’. it has been 16 years since the last building – the vitra design museum – by architect frank gehry was built on the vitra campus. now, on time and on budget, the ‘vitrahaus’ has opened, becoming the newest addition to the site at weil am rhein.

‘vitrahaus’ by herzog & de meuron image © designboom




the concept of the ‘vitrahaus’ connects two themes which are occurring in the architectural practice of herzog & de meuron: the theme of the archetypal house and that of stacked volumes. the five-storey structure is comprised of 12 ‘houses’ – five houses are set at the base in which seven other houses are stacked upon one another. each of the structural volumes appear as if they have been shaped by an extrusion press and are cantilevered up to 15 meters in some places. the floor slabs intersect the underlying gables, resulting in a three-dimensional assemblage or ‘pile of houses’.

the charcoal color of the exterior stucco unifies the building image © designboom




the ‘vitrahaus’ has a daytime view of the surrounding landscape, while in the evening  the perspective is reversed. during the day, one gazes out of the house, and when darkness falls, the ‘vitrahaus’ interior glows, the rooms open up and the physical structure of the house seems to dissipate. the glazed gable ends turn into display cases that shine across the vitra campus and the surrounding countryside.


the maximum dimensions of the structure are: 57 metres in length, 54 metres in width and 21.3 metres in height, rising above the other buildings on the vitra campus. the design intention was not to create a horizontal building, but a vertically oriented structure, which provides an overview of the surrounding landscape and the vitra factory premises.



image © designboom

image © designboom

the vitrine – an exhibition space for the chair collection of the vitra design museum image © designboom




the volume which houses the vitrine – an exhibition space for the chair collection of the vitra design museum – does not have typical shape of a house. instead, herzog & de meuron use the vitrine to express their ‘mocking’ response to the static building. it appears as if it is being pushed down by the heavy load of houses from above.

image © designboom

image © designboom

image © designboom

in some places the houses are cantilevered by up to 15 m image © designboom

image © designboom

image © designboom

image © designboom

image © designboom

image © designboom




the courtyard was one of the first things the architects thought about when they started the project. like a small vertically layered city, the ‘vitrahaus’ functions as an entryway to the campus, although not really an entrance as you are already in the building before entering it. wooden plank floors made from the local larch wood, define the open area in which the five base houses are grouped. these spaces function as: a conference area, an exhibition space for the chair collection of the vitra design museum (the vitrine), along with a conglomerate which contains the vitra design museum shop, lobby with a reception area, cloakroom and café with an outdoor terrace for summer use.

image © designboom

the vitra design museum shop image © designboom

the vitrine has exterior benches, made also in larchwood which span the length of its exterior image © designboom

the ‘entrance’ into the building image © designboom

part of the design was that water pipes run out of the plaster rather than along the building image © designboom

english translation: ‘the vitra house is dedicated erika fehlbaum’ mother of rolf fehlbaum, chairman of vitra’s board of directors image © designboom

a worm’s eye view of the stacked volumes intersecting one another image © designboom

photo by leon chew image © vitra

vitrahaus architecture by herzog & de meuron photo by iwan baan image © vitra

vitrahaus architecture by herzog & de meuron photo by iwan baan image © vitra

vitrahaus model image © designboom

vitrahaus model image © designboom

vitrahaus model image © designboom



jacques herzog discusses the concept behind the ‘vitrahaus’ video by designboom

architects pierre de meuron & jacques herzog portrait © designboom

  • it is really impressive project but when I saw it for the first time, I thought it’s Sou Fujimoto idea (project of tokyo apartments) – hope I am wrong!

    maggie says:
  • i was thinking the same!

    carlos says:
  • I think it’s a beautiful building. I love how the houses just run into one another – kind of a poetic chaos. Congratulations once again on a wonderful project!

    Anna says:
  • the effect at night is breathtaking.
    it’s like the houses become display boxes for all the wonderful vitra products inside all full of color and light…
    really cannot wait to visit.

    vitra lover says:
  • h+m = amazing realy , unic, culturalconceptual ,avant gardist all time , new vision ,they are fantastic.

    gh.n says:
  • check for yourself …
    this work was published in sou fujimotos book “primitive future”, and designed in 2006, see his interview on designboom:
    [url=https://www.designboom.com/eng/interview/sou_fujimoto.html] sou fujimoto’s tokyo apts [/url]

    pcs says:
  • A striking appearance, similar idea to Fujimoto’s – but different.

    Helene says:
  • Beautiful, but looks like it would be an energy hog in such a cold climate.

    sadey says:
  • dear sadey,
    the vitrahaus uses geothermic heating to insulate and control the temperature of the building.

    andrea db says:
  • I like the way that a totally form of housing is used for museum uses

    natalia says:
  • just great!

    jumping wll says:
  • I think several projects from them have iconic look but still simple. Difficult to copy cause it has signature. Great Architect.

    Oan says:
  • beautifully executed.

    timo says:
  • nice, i like it

    flea says:
  • great! BETTER! unic!

    zzzzago says:
  • v.nice

    brian says:

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