Aurélie Blanchard makes over the canteen in Gehry’s Vitra Factory Building

A factory hall is one of Frank Gehry’s three contributions to the Vitra Campus at Weil am Rhein in Germany. Twenty-five years after its completion, Swiss architect Aurélie Blanchard has revamped the building’s canteen (+ slideshow).

Vitra's Gehry's Building Canteen by Aurélie Blanchard Architect

Canadian architect Frank Gehry completed the Factory Building for Vitra in 1989 – the same time as the celebrated Vitra Design Museum and the smaller Vitra Design Museum Gallery – at the campus that has now become a popular tourist attraction for the brand.

Swiss architect Aurélie Blanchard was this year commissioned to restyle some of the building’s interiors, starting with the canteen.

Vitra's Gehry's Building Canteen by Aurélie Blanchard Architect

Her aim was to inject a more homely atmosphere into the industrial space, introducing some of Vitra’s popular furniture and homeware items alongside low-level lighting and foliage.

Vitra's Gehry's Building Canteen by Aurélie Blanchard Architect

“The brief was to bring to the existing canteen space the domesticity one would find in a proper restaurant while respecting the industrial and communal character of the room,” said Blanchard, whose past projects include a copper-lined Basel restaurant.

“The design aims to bring warmth and diversity whilst keeping a high sense of minimalism and abstraction through the device of monochromy,” she said.

Vitra's Gehry's Building Canteen by Aurélie Blanchard Architect

Most of the space is taken up by a series of long canteen tables that span the whole width. Beside these, the architect has added a variety of different Vitra chairs that vary from Charles and Ray Eames’ DSW Chair to the Basel Chair by Jasper Morrison and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s plant-inspired Vegetal.

All of the chairs are black, helping to tie together the different styles while also contrasting with the oak tabletops.

Vitra's Gehry's Building Canteen by Aurélie Blanchard Architect

“The mixture of their different lines and style is unified through their black monochromy,” said Blanchard.

“The iconic chairs are thus being reduced to the essence of their silhouettes, whilst the horizontal planes of the large communal oak tables bring an element of warmth and domesticity.”

Vitra's Gehry's Building Canteen by Aurélie Blanchard Architect

Cushioned seating runs round the room’s perimeter, while high-back seating creates a more comfortable dining area in one corner.

Vitra’s Corniches shelves create a space for plants along the walls, which have been painted in a subtle shade of green, and low-hanging bell-shaped pendant lights – designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto in the 1930s – contrast with the industrial lighting above.

Vitra's Gehry's Building Canteen by Aurélie Blanchard Architect

Aurélie Blanchard is now working on some of the other spaces in the building, which contains offices, production rooms, a showroom and a test centre.

Other recent additions to Vitra’s famous campus include a fictitious home by Studioilse, a micro-home by Renzo Piano and a combined viewing tower and helter skelter by artist Carsten Höller. The site is best known for Herzog & de Meuron’s VitraHaus showroom, as well as buildings by Tadao Ando, Alvaro Siza and Zaha Hadid.

Photography is by Mark Niedermann.



Studioilse designs home for fictitious couple using Vitra and Artek furniture

The loft space at the VitraHaus showroom in Weil am Rhein, Germany, has been transformed into a fictitious home by London-based Studioilse using furniture by Vitra and Artek  (+ slideshow).

Studioilse VitraHaus loft with Vitra and Artek furniture

Studioilse, led by designer Ilse Crawford, curated the installation at Swiss firm Vitra‘s Herzog & de Meuron-designed showroom – the first joint showcase since the brand acquired Finnish company Artek in September last year.

Studioilse VitraHaus loft with Vitra and Artek furniture

“The VitraHaus loft was going to be redone for the fourth time and I felt that this would be a fantastic opportunity to display Artek as a natural addition to the Vitra project,” said Nora Fehlbaum, a member of Vitra’s board of directors.

Studioilse VitraHaus loft with Vitra and Artek furniture

The loft has been arranged as the home of imaginary Finnish-German couple Harri and Astrid – a musician and set designer whose apartment is “filled with objects that tell the story of their lives”.

Studioilse VitraHaus loft with Vitra and Artek furniture

Studioilse wanted to present the furniture as part of a lived-in environment rather than in a traditional showroom.

Studioilse VitraHaus loft with Vitra and Artek furniture

“We wanted to think beyond the furniture and lighting and beyond the bland commercialisation of design, to convey real life in all its layers and eccentricities,” said Crawford.

Studioilse VitraHaus loft with Vitra and Artek furniture

On display are famous designs like Stool 60 and Paimio Armchair 41 by Modernist architect Alvar Aalto, who co-founded Artek in 1935.

Studioilse VitraHaus loft with Vitra and Artek furniture

The space is cluttered with books and ornaments, while photographs and colour samples are pinned to a cork-lined wall.

Studioilse VitraHaus loft with Vitra and Artek furniture

Canvases, brushes and other artist’s materials are grouped into a studio setup in one part of the loft, which has wooden floors throughout and is naturally lit by the building’s large gable windows.

Studioilse VitraHaus loft with Vitra and Artek furniture

“It was vital to bring out the intellectual spirit of the minds and hands that made these things,” said Crawford. “These pieces are stories of real life and courageous intentions to raise the quality of everyday living. To see them as museum exhibits or sales units is a profound injustice to their creators.”

Studioilse VitraHaus loft with Vitra and Artek furniture

Earlier this year, Artek bought the factory in Finland where Aalto developed his furniture.



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hari pahlawan deco

Verner Panton

Verner PantonVerner Panton, born 1926 in Gamtofte, Denmark, studied at Odense Technical College before enrolling at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen as an architecture student.

He worked from 1950-52 in the architectural firm of Arne Jacobsen, and founded an independent studio for architecture and design in 1955. His furniture designs for the firm Plus-linje attracted attention with their geometric forms. In the following years Panton created numerous designs for seating furniture and lighting.

His passion for bright colours and geometric patterns manifested itself in an extensive range of textile designs. By fusing the elements of a room—floor, walls, ceiling, furnishings, lighting, textiles, wall panels made of enamel or plastic—into a unified gesamtkunstwerk, Panton’s interior installations have attained legendary status. The most famous examples are the “Visiona” ship installations for the Cologne Furniture Fair (1968 and 1970), the Spiegel publishing headquarters in Hamburg (1969) and the Varna restaurant in Aarhus (1970).

Panton’s collaboration with Vitra began in the early 1960s, when the firm decided to develop what became his best-known design, the Panton Chair, which was introduced in 1967. This was also the first independently developed product by Vitra.

Verner Panton died in 1998 in Copenhagen. Vitra’s re-edition of designs by Panton, as well as the retrospective of his work mounted by the Vitra Design Museum in 2000, bear witness to the special relationship between Vitra and Verner Panton.



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Design: Decorous’ Profile by Eileen Rachman