Vitra Fire Station
D-79576 Weil am Rhein
Zaha Hadid 1994
The Vitra Fire Station in Weil
am Rhein was Zaha Hadid's first built project. The relatively small
structure serves as a showcase for the unusual shapes and angles that
architectural critics had admired in her conceptual work throughout the
1980s, with un-built projects such as her winning entry for the Peak
International Design Competition for Hong Kong in 1983.
Constructed as a working
firehouse within the Vitra furniture design and manufacturing complex
(after a fire some years earlier proved the need for such a structure),
the building was intended to serve all of Vitra's buildings which at the
time fell outside the range of neighboring fire districts. The firehouse
thus became part of Vitra's program of building structures by world
renowned architects, including Tadao Ando's Conference
Pavilion, Frank Gehry's Design
Museum and Alvaro Siza's Production Hall.
When in use the firehouse was
staffed by volunteers who worked in the Vitra factory. The building
functioned as a firehouse until the fire district lines were re-drawn and
the Vitra complex was finally covered by a nearby fire department. This
rendered the building partially obsolete, and it was for this reason (and
not the rumored error on Hadid's part of not allowing enough room in the
building to house fire trucks) that the building is now used by Vitra as a
showplace for part of its permanent collection of chairs.
As can be expected, the inside
of the building is as imaginative as the outside, with multiple optical
tricks being played on the viewer especially in the bathrooms of the
downstairs portion of the building. Hadid's interplay of angles and use of
color makes the building's interior as visually interesting as the outside
without making it unnecessarily busy. Aside from the obvious appeal of the
building's outside, it should be noted that the back of the building also
features poured concrete benches which mirror the buildings more
sculptural qualities. The rear end of the building also features an
interesting connection to Le Corbusier's Notre Dame du Haut, whereby Hadid
seems to evoke the front end of a large ship, with its sharp end and
K. Bellon 2003, updated 2008
How to visit
The design museum is open
Tuesdays to Sundays. It is closed on Mondays, and also during preparations
between its temporary exhibitions - so check first: call +49 7621 702 3200,
email email@example.com or
(select Vitra Design Museum, not the one in Berlin).
The only way to see the Fire
Station and buildings other than the design museum itself is to take a 2-hour guided
architectural tour (usually in German except by arrangement or if there
are a sufficient number of English-speakers). Currently these take place
at 12pm and 2pm, but call the number above to check first or to arrange
for private tours in German, English,
French or Italian.
The museum is in Germany, but
the closest city is Basel in Switzerland. By car, from Frieburg (North) or
Basel (South) take the autobahn A5 (exit Weil am Rhein, then signposted).
From France/St Louis take the border crossing Palmrain. From Lörrach/Riehen
turn west at the junction marked 'Weil am Rhein' just North of the Fondation
By public transport from Basel,
take bus number 55 which stops right outside the museum at the entrance to
the Vitra site. Or from the train station in Weil am Rhein it is a
Books and other web
Illustrations and brief
information (in English) about the architecture at the Vitra site is
provided at Vitra's web site.
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