Last month TOJO was lucky enough to spend a couple of days with Vitra at their wonderful campus in Weil Am Rhein, just across the German border outside of Basel. Staying on the banks of the Rhein, we were greeted by cloudless skies and treated to our first (perhaps only?) burst of sun and heat of the summer.
That alone, and the occasional continental beer of course, would have been more than enough to keep us entertained but, needless to say, we were also here to learn...
Spending 24 hours in the company of Vitra, we were shown around many of the buildings that surround Charles Eames Strasse and the public galleries and treated to some of the hidden gems of the factory, such as the rigorous testing sites, which looks something like a robot torture laboratory and is just as fun as that sounds. We’re also shown around a portion of the factory and get the chance to see some Aluminum chairs being constructed, though I’m not to whisper a word about the secret methods so we’ll move swiftly on.
For all the treasures found inside the buildings, the outdoors is rather special too. For those that don’t know, a huge fire in 1981 destroyed most of the original buildings and, rather than rebuild what was destroyed, the campus was given a huge revamp with a huge collection of contemporary architectural buildings; one of the foremost of its kind to be found anywhere in the world. As you might expect, there were photographs to be snapped – and you can see a collection of ours below.
The afternoon is spent exploring Vitra’s sofa collection and as a retailer it’s an essential couple of hours; split in to teams we dissect every aspect of our given sofa, from key selling points to the personal story behind it, and we’re then treated to similar information from each of the other teams.
After dinner, a few more of those continental beers, and a great night of sleep in Hotel Krafft, the second day begins with a short stroll along the Rhein and a brilliantly strong jug of coffee in the hotel breakfast room which looks across the river. We were missing it before we’d even wiped away our crumbs.
Arriving back at the campus in even warmer conditions than the preceding day, the morning is passed with a showcase of Vitra’s collection of chairs. As with the sofa training the day before, it’s both well presented and thoroughly interesting overview of the history and idea behind each piece; proof that learning can be both fun and informative. Who knew!
After a rather glorious lunch spread, in which a little more over-indulgence takes place, it has to be said, we’re treated to a guided tour of the campus. Over the course of a couple of hours we take in the incredible Fire Station, designed by Zaha Hadid and complete with all of its wonky walls and deceiving angular spaces, the striking SAANA warehouse and, my personal favourite, Jean Prouve’s petrol station. It really is a stunning place to wander around, even in the blinding sunshine and crazy heat that gets more and more intense as the day goes on.
We finish the trip with a couple of hours to wile away in the stunning Vitra Haus, a brilliant addition to the campus which consists of a number of houses stacked on top of each other, and which acts as the company’s flagship store, showcasing all of their Home Collection in an array of inspiring spaces and design arrangements.
To conclude: If you get the chance to pay the place a visit - do it! Oh and don't miss out on the giant slide, it's totally worth it.