Pull up an auld chair…

Now for a bit of culture on the The Swiss Job. God knows, it could do with a bit. A friend from Dundee came over at the weekend and she’s a creative/arty/interior designer/architecture appreciative kind of girl. So deciding what to do for the weekend in Basel was easy, we headed for the museums. Well, after a day of wandering round Basel and seeing the sights and sounds.

On Sunday we jumped on the train and three minutes later we were at a town called Weil Am Rhein. After a twenty minute walk we got to the Vitra museum. This is the cultured bit! Vitra started as a furniture manufacturer specialising in glass cabinets for shops back in the 30-40’s. On a business trip to New York in the 50’s, the boss of Vitra came across the work of a husband and wife design team called Charles and Ray Eames. He secured the rights to produce their work in Europe and the Vitra of today was born.

If you’ve never heard of them you’ll have definitely seen one of their chairs. They designed chairs using modern (at the time) techniques and materials like moulded plastics and plywood, wire mesh chairs and brightly coloured fabrics. It was cutting edge stuff at the time and the designs are still used/copied in hundreds of products today. It’s amazing to think that one couple could be so prolific and ahead of their time.

The Vitra museum shows collections of the products they have manufactured through the years in a collection of stunnigly designed buildings on their campus. They employ the best architects around the world to build their factories. Even the fire station (designed by Zaha Hadid) is a beautifully designed and built building.

My favourite however was their conference centre. Designed by Tadao Ando (the “architect of silence”) it incorporates a square, circle and rectangle into the building layout. It’s also designed to be as minimal and simple as possible to avoid any distractions for people attending talks. He managed to squeeze the building into an already existing cherry orchard and all the windows look out onto the cherry trees. It’s a stunning building.

It’s a strange but beautiful campus and I would strongly reccommend a visit if you’re in the area. You can visit the museum but you have to sign up for the tours (at 12 and 2 each day) to see the rest of the campus as it is still a functioning furniture factory. They also do good cake!


One response to “Pull up an auld chair…

  1. I went there when I was visiting friends in Schaffhausen and my german architect friend wanted to visit – her parents used to own a furniture store and they sold Vitra chairs! It’s an impressive place right enough!

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