Vitra Schaudepot – Herzog & de Meuron

Place: Weil am Rhein, Germany
Architect: Herzog & de Muron, Basel, Switzerland
Client: Vitra Verwaltungs GmbH, Weil am Rhein, Germany
All images courtesy of Vitra


The Vitra Schaudepot by Herzog & de Meuron

The Vitra Schaudepot (roughly meaning “exhibiting warehouse” in English) is a brand new addition to the famous Vitra campus in Weil am Rhein, the small German town close to Basel, Switzerland, where Swiss furniture company Vitra has established its headquarters and displays its remarkable collection of design objects and built architecture.

Inaugurated on June 6, 2016, the new building designed by Herzog & de Meuron architects is a venue for presenting key objects from the collection of the Vitra Design Museum, encompassing over 8,000 objects dating from 1800 to the present, including pieces of furniture, light fixtures, and documents.
The new gallery has been long-awaited since the Design Museum building, designed by Frank Gehry in 1989 and originally intended to be the place where the collection was displayed, is currently used to accommodate temporary exhibitions and the campus lacked a proper space where to show the permanent collection of Vitra.

Herzog & de Meuron’s Schaudepot is a minimalist gable roof construction, clad in hand-broken bricks, and windowless.
In a time of financial crisis, creating a building so unpretentious was intentional both on the architect’s and the client’s side.
The use of bricks as the main material for the building’s walls was also inspired by the architecture of the Factory building designed on the campus by Alvaro Siza in 1994.



The Schaudepot (up to the right and down in the foreground) and Zaha Hadid’s Fire Station side by side in the Vitra Campus

Located near the Fire Station designed by Zaha Hadid in 1993, the Schaudepot consists of two levels, one of which is underground, and encompasses a gross floor area of 23,465 square feet.

The ground floor accommodates the main hall where a 400-piece selection from the Vitra collection is on show, including designs by key figures such as Le Corbusier, Gerrit Rietveld, Alvar Aalto, Charles & Ray Eames, and Ettore Sottsass but also less well-known or anonymous designs, prototypes, experiments, and recent designs produced with a 3D printer.

Lighted by an array of fluorescent tube lamps attached to the ceiling, the permanent exhibition is chronologically arranged and conceived as a sort of “cabinet of wonder”; objects on show are placed on warehouse-style metal racks and are not limited to Vitra but they include products by many among the most renowned international manufacturers.



Views of the Vitra Design Museum permanent exhibition in the Schaudepot main hall

“The selection of exhibited objects reflects the museum collection and provides an overview of the history of furniture design, but also leaves room for different viewpoints and interpretations. Subgroups highlight individual thematic developmental sequences, such as the striking differentiation of the cantilever chair between 1926 and 1935, or the sudden explosive diversity of colorful plastic furniture in the 1960s, which was brought about by new technology as well as social upheaval.” 

A digital catalog, accessible from the visitor’s mobile devices or from tablets available at the reception, provides information and details about the objects on view and their designers. The ground floor also houses the main entrance area, a temporary exhibition space, and the museum shop.
On the underground floor, a selection focused on various themes related to design, including sections dedicated to Italian and Scandinavian design, is on permanent display.



Overall, the Vitra Design Museum collection encompasses designs by Alvar Aalto, Ron Arad, Maarten Baas, Ronan en Erwan Bouroullec, Andrea Branzi, Marcel Breuer, Humberto en Fernando Campana, Achille Castiglioni, Luigi Colani, Charles e Ray Eames, Frank Gehry, Eileen Gray, Konstantin Grcic, Arne Jacobsen, Shiro Kuramata, Joris Laarman, Le Corbusier, Alessandro Mendini, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Minale Maeda, Jasper Morrison, George Nelson, Marc Newson, Isamu Noguchi, Verner Panton, Gaetano Pesce, Gio Ponti, Jean Prouvé, Tejo Remy, Eero Saarinen, Jerszy Seymour, Philippe Starck, Superstudio, Marcel Wanders, Hans J. Wegner, and Tokujin Yoshioka, among others.


The new venue is connected through a passage wing to a refurbished 1963 saw-tooth factory building which houses research offices, a restoration studio, a library, and a cafeteria at the ground floor, and exhibitions dedicated to lighting objects and the Estate of Charles and Ray Eames in the basement.


Schematic plans of the Schaudepot



The Vitra Schaudepot. Research offices in the refurbished factory building


The Vitra Schaudepot.The Estate of Charles and Ray Eames exhibition

Additionally, the passage wing hosts a space, called Schaudepot lab, which through material samples, semi-finished products, construction examples, documents, and films provides information about the materials and manufacturing processes used in some of the more important furniture designs.



Views of the Schaudepot lab


All images courtesy of Vitra

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The Vitra Design Museum is a museum dedicated to industrial design and architecture located in Germany at short distance from the Swiss city of Basel.

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