AD Classics: Vitra Design Museum and Factory / Frank Gehry

© Liao Yusheng

An independent private foundation, the Vitra Museum was founded in 1989 by the CEO Rolf Fehlbaum. Focusing mainly on furniture and interior design, the museum features work from Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Alvar Aalto, Verner Panton, Dieter Rams, Richard Hutten and Michael Thonet. The modern architecture which houses these collections was the first building of Frank Gehry in Europe, and included the museum for Rolf Fehlbaum’s private collection, production hall, and gatehouse for the factory of Vitra.

More on the museum after the break.


© Liao Yusheng

Easily recognizable as the architectural style of Frank Gehry, the deconstructive sculptural building differs only slightly than his usual designs in that he limits his materials to white plaster and a titanium-zinc alloy. As said by the architect, “I love the shaping I can do when I’m sketching. And it never occurred to me that I would do it in a building. The first thing I built of anything like that is Vitra in .

© Liao Yusheng

At only 8,000-square-feet, the two-story Vitra Museum is one of the world’s largest collections of furniture, with pieces from most periods and styles beginning with the nineteenth century and continuing into the modern era. A functional mix of towers, ramps and cubes, the volumes of the building are determined by lighting and programmatic necessities.

Courtesy of Newsbuilding

At the rear end of the building, the factory hall relates to the adjacent building by Nicholas Grimshaw in both size and height. A formal link between the museum is found in the towers and ramps, which bridge together the production areas, showroom, test laboratory, cafeteria, a multi-purpose room and offices.

© Liao Yusheng

Paul Heyer, an architecture critic, described the visitor’s experience as “a continuous changing swirl of white forms on the exterior, each seemingly without apparent relationship to the other, with its interiors a dynamically powerful interplay, in turn directly expressive of the exterior convolutions. As a totality it resolves itself into an entwined coherent display…” Surrounded by a meadow of cherry trees, the museum is also nearby to Claes Oldenburg’s sculpture Balancing Tools, as well as a conference pavilion by Tadao Ando.

Architect: Frank Gehry
Location: , Germany
Project Year: 1989
References: Vitra Design Museum, Paul Heyer
Photographs: Liao Yusheng, Newsbuilding

Cite: Sveiven, Megan. "AD Classics: Vitra Design Museum and Factory / Frank Gehry" 24 Feb 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 Apr 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +10

    I believe the image with the furniture on display is taken within the Herzog and De Meuron building.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +2

      yes, you are right … this one definetly was taken inside the new campus building by hdem …
      kind of a mixup there … but the area is worth a visit anyhow …

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