In 1950, he and his wife Erika founded Vitra with the goal of creating functional and inspiring interiors, furniture and accessories. Today the company is still family-owned, run by their son Rolf. Vitra continues to be known for the longevity and sophistication of its products, furniture, spaces and so much more. Their maxim sums up their design process: “The details are not the details. They make the product.”
Vitra’s impressive Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany, is a paradise for design lovers interested in architecture, industrial design and interior décor. Whether you visit for an architectural tour, to peruse the Vitra Design Museum or to browse home furnishings at VitraHaus, the company offers an overwhelming array of design-saturated experiences and opportunities to find one-of-a-kind pieces.
Rolf Fehlbaum collects chairs “the way others collect stamps” and has the largest collection in the world. In 1989, he asked architect Frank Gehry to design a home for them in Weil am Rhein. Gehry complied, adding a production hall, an office building, the Vitra Design Museum and even a chair. This was the beginning of Vitra Campus.
Over the course of three decades, Gehry collaborated with notable architects including Tadao Ando, Buckminster Fuller, Nicholas Grimshaw, Zaha Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron, Jean Prouvé, SANAA and Álvaro Siza to complete the campus. Today, it’s an architectural park that attracts design lovers from all over the world. Two-hour tours are offered daily, and visitors are also welcome to wander at their leisure.
Vitra Design Museum
No trip to the Vitra Campus is complete without visiting the Vitra Design Museum, one of the best in the world. Originally intended as a private collector’s museum, it hosted small exhibitions from designers like Erich Dieckmann and Ron Arad. In the 1990s the museum’s scope expanded, with internationally-acclaimed exhibitions featuring Frank Lloyd Wright, Czech Cubism and more.
The museum is the first building Frank Gehry designed in Europe, and is home to numerous significant historical design objects, as well as the estates of such figures as Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard, George Nelson and Verner Panton.
VitraHaus is the place to be for an intimate experience of Vitra’s products, furniture and interiors. The four-level showroom, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, houses the Vitra Home Collection and is the company’s flagship store. Not only can you browse elegantly composed spaces filled with furnishings that are available to purchase, but you can also watch how Charles and Ray Eames’ Lounge Chair — a Vitra classic — is made in the aptly named Lounge Chair Atelier. Once your eyes have had their fill, have lunch in the Café downstairs, which serves regional specialties and even offers picnic lunches for those who are off to explore the Vitra Campus grounds.
Charles and Ray Eames were known to say that “being a good designer is a lot like being a good host.” With its history of partnerships with the world’s best designers, Vitra certainly embodies both those qualities at its legendary headquarters.
Written by Tracy Stefanucci
Headline image of VitraHaus (design: Herzog & de Meuron) by Julien Lanoo © Vitra