BLOG INDEX symbol site 17 SEPTEMBER 2021

Vitra, iconic design for public spaces

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Vitra public spaces

The innovative design of Vitra at the service of airports, stations, residents and public spaces 



Improve the quality of the environment of houses, offices and public spaces through the use of design. It is the mission that has always distinguished Vitra, the company founded in the 1950s in Germany, in Weil am Rhein of Germany, by Willi Fehlbaum, owner of a furniture store in nearby Basel in Switzerland. A story, that of Vitra, rich in prestigious collaborations with the most important personalities of architecture and the Novecento design movement. It all started when Fehlbaum randomly discovered, in a showcase of New York, a Charles and Ray Eames chair and fell in that point to buy the rights on all the works of the creative couple. After in 1981 a fire destroyed the Vitra factories, the English architect Nicholas Grimshaw was called to design a new factory. Next to the aluminum hall, ready for production, only six months after the fire, another production plant was built in 1986 by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza. In 1989 it was then the turn of Frank Gehry who designed another building next to the first two. Gehry himself also built the "Vitra Design Museum'', originally intended to host the private collection of furniture by Rolf Fehlbaum, the owner of the Vitra. The collaboration with the prominent figures of contemporary architecture continued, so much of that in 1993 the Iraqi Archistar Zaha Hadid revised the environments of a firefighter barracks that now houses a chairs collection of the design museum. In the same year a conference pavilion was built designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Andō, the first work of his out of Japan. In 1994 the administrative staff of the Vitra moved to the new General Headquarters (always designed by Frank Gehry) in nearby Birsfelden, a few kilometers from Basel, Switzerland, while Alvaro Siza added the shop building to the Weil am Rhein headquarters. It is in the same office that in 2000 a geodesic dome was installed designed by the US architect Buckminster Fuller, built in 1975 and today used for space for events and exhibitions, while in 2003 there was also a service station from a project by Jean Prouvé, French Architect and designer.

By combining the technical and conceptual skills with the creativity of contemporary designers, Vitra continues to push boundaries and question the status quo. The products in its collections are developed thanks to a long design process that combines engineering excellence with the creative genius of some of the best-known designers on the international level. The goal is to create interiors and accessories that are both functional and inspirational, a goal shared also by SAG'80 which has chosen Vitra among the collaborating brands of the showroom. The fundamental principles underlying the company are durability and aesthetics, essential characteristics found in all products, from contemporary to the great design classics of Eames, Prouvé and Panton. Vitra's strength currently also lies in having perceived, before other companies, the radical transformation that is taking place in public spaces that are increasingly becoming workspaces. Thanks to new communication technologies, people can now work in hotel lobbies, cafes, airports or even parks. And on the contrary, offices are becoming public spaces: many companies are creating open and inspiring places where employees - or outside visitors - can relax, hold meetings or spend the day working. As work is no longer tied to a specific place, new behavioral patterns have developed, which are gradually finding their way into the widespread office that can be anywhere.


Airline, the flexible seat that optimizes space at the airport

Anyone who has passed through the airport, at least once in their life, will have had the opportunity to appreciate the comfort and beauty of Airline, the seating system for waiting areas created by Foster & Partners for Vitra. In this design project we see all the DNA of Norman Foster, renowned architect of the main international airports, and expert in airport interior design. The basic idea is to create a sturdy frame consisting of an aluminum beam supported by legs. in die-cast aluminum, on which seating elements, armrests and tables are mounted. This is why Airline is born, a solid and easy to clean system that allows you to optimize and give flexibility to the space. Assembly is simple, it only requires a single key, which also simplifies reconfiguration as needed. The design is understated and elegant, and combines the superior durability of its construction with stylistic endurance.


Alcove Highback Work, the sofa becomes an intimate space in which to isolate yourself

Create the "room within a room". It is a concept that Vitra has pursued intensely through the collaboration with the designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, realizing the idea of ​​micro-architectural furniture elements.

The concept that defines the Alcove family of products - creating places of shelter and isolation - is particularly pronounced in the Alcove Highback Work: hidden inside its high side and rear panels, in fact, the user is protected. The sofa protects users both visually and acoustically from their surroundings, forming a retreat space. With its integrated desk for tablet, storage box and cable entry, it is a seat that offers a flexible and private workspace even in the open space office, perfect for individual activities that require concentration and for small meetings. The different models of the Alcove family can be combined in a variable way, thus offering a diverse range of possibilities for organizing open space without having to install fixed structures. the creation of cohesive central areas, Meet & Retreat areas, with a unified aesthetic, great flexibility and functionality.


Lounge Chair by Charles and Ray Eames, the timeless aesthetic of a design classic 

Extremely high comfort and refined materials. These were the ideas behind the more modern version of the Lounge Chair by Charles and Ray Eames for Vitra, the English club chair, one of the design icons of the twentieth century. The Eames wanted to design a version that was lighter, more modern, and more comfortable than the traditional one, with large proportions which brings together the most absolute comfort and the best quality of materials and workmanship. With this project of 1956 the creative couple thus imposed new stylistic and functional standards and the armchair continues to be made in the same way: the seat and back are in curved plywood, finished with different types of visible veneer and the cushions are removable. The Lounge Chair is available in two sizes and different combinations of leather upholstery and wooden shell The base of the armchair is in wood covered in aluminum, with a five-blade support.

There is also an all-black version of this armchair, while the white leather and light wood version has only been available on certain occasions over the years, in a limited edition. The Lounge Chair can be ordered together with the Ottoman footrest element: in this case the two wooden shells will be produced in the way as to match the grain of the wood.


Soft Work, a hybrid seating system for the widespread office

Spaces that become mixed and offices that can be anywhere. With this in mind, Vitra and the designers Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby have conceived and developed the new Soft Work seating system, combining the skills of the home, office and public areas. Instead of creating a work environment centered around desks with peripheral sofas, Soft Work has developed into a system where tabletop workstations are concentrated around a seating landscape. Barber and Osgerby see this as a long-term development:


"The workstation is going like the dining room, it is disappearing as an archetype. The desk has had its day. With furniture technology you need a place to sit and occasionally or a comfortable place to relax. This is our belief.”


Soft Work offers a versatile platform for both individuals and teams. In addition to ergonomic seating options, users also find practical coffee tables, power sockets and charging stations. Thanks to its modular concept, it can be easily assembled in different arrangements, allowing architects to structure the interior spaces of a building, create specific focal points or define flexible public areas. All functional elements are seamlessly integrated into a refined overall aesthetics.


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