Vitra, by Herzog & de Meuron
Within the selection of architecture that Eikongraphia presents there is one architectural firm that dominates with seven projects – Herzog & de Meuron. Since iconography is basically the reconnection of architecture to sculpture, it are not by coincidence architects that often cooperate with artists. Foreign Office comes second with four projects, and Neutelings Riedijk third with three projects.
Last week Vitra announced that the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and Japanese architects SANAA will both build a new building at the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany. Herzog & de Meuron will build a new museum building next to the existing buildings of Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, and Buckminster Fuller. SANAA will build a new ‘Production hall’ on the other side of the campus. There are currently no images of the design by SANAA besides the rendering of the whole campus that shows a big hall with a rounded perimeter.
The design by Herzog & de Meuron made me think of two images. Firstly there is the image of a Vitra-logo that emerges from criss-cross lines drawn at a corporate paper bag. Secondly, and more prominently, the ‘Favela’ chair by the designers Fernando & Humberto Campana that uses recycled wood strips to construct a seat. The random stacking of similar linear elements is striking. This is however not a design for Vitra, but for Edra.
Herzog & de Meuron write about their design: “The VitraHaus uses directly the archetype of the house, that one encounters everywhere in the world. By stacking, pressing, and extruding – all mechanical procedures that are applied in industrial operations - connects the simple House-form to a complex image where inside and outside overlap.”
The suggestion that the architecture is connected to the production of Vitra furniture is powerful. Let us examine that more closely. After browsing through the collection of Vitra there is one furniture-designer that in an almost theatrical way demonstrates the industrial themes of extruding and stacking, and that is Frank Gehry. The theme of pressing emerges in the ‘Algue’ product – a plastic rhizome-form of a two decimeters square that can be pressed together to create curtains.
The design by Herzog & de Meuron does also relate to the adjacent museum-building of by Frank Gehry, whose form-language already features ‘stacking’, ‘pressing’, and ‘extruding’, and which building is also white. The new Herzog & de Meuron building is therefore highly contextual. In a lecture at the Netherlands Architecture Institute today Anthony Vidler combined in one sentence the words ‘iconographic building’, ‘single’, and ‘non-contextual’. Well, this proves him wrong.
Note: Fernando & Humberto Campana present their designs by placing them in a natural environment, but also within a Baroque chamber. This suggests a connection between their furniture designs with its seemingly random pattern of wooden planks to the seemingly random patterns of nature, and further on to the seemingly random patterns of the Baroque. If the work of Herzog & de Meuron is connected to that of the Campana brothers, their work is also connected to nature and further on to the Baroque. Architect Erick van Egeraat already claims that by representing natural patterns (of a rock or a tree) he can make a Baroque architecture.