Dichotomy of Private and Public

Dichotomy of Private and Public

A comparison of the spacial character within the VitraHaus and the whole of the Vitra Campus 

     As a piece of architecture on a campus that has virtually become an architecture museum, the VitraHaus fits in with its surroundings. The question to ask, however, is what makes this possible. The Vitra Campus today features works from very well-known architects including Gehry, Hadid, and Ando, and Herzog & de Meuron’s 2006 addition to this campus may at first seem a confused heap of prisms, but the derivative of its form may come from the campus itself. The VitraHuas, a combination of the archetypal house theme and the stacking theme, reconciles the public space with the private space as the Vitra Campus does in a comparable manner, and this method creates an effect on visitors that is at once steering and welcoming.

     The purpose of the VitraHaus was to have interior space with which Vitra could display its newly launched Home Collection. As one might conclude by the collection’s title, Vitra required space that summoned that feeling of welcome and comfort that a private house can provide, while also acting as a public space to provide circulation amongst the product displays. To satisfy these requirements, architects Herzog and de Meuron harnessed two themes: the archetypal house, hence the pentagonal prisms, and the theme of stacked volumes, hence this prisms sitting atop and poking through each other. Herzog and de Meuron studied a variety of typical house sections, arranging and connecting theme to create spaces that could at once feel homey and still be navigable between each space.  The result is a somewhat informal plan constructed using informal themes.
     This informality contrasts with the formal plan and architecture used for the entire Vitra Campus, but the reconciliation of public and private spaces is similar. Both the VitraHaus and the Vitra Campus must make a separation between public space meant for circulation and movement and private space meant for pausing and habitation, however long-term or momentary. Both this building and the campus are essentially defined as public places, but both contain moments of privacy. On the other hand, using the archetypal house and the action of stacking is more informal than the regulated pathways and structural locations that render the plan of the campus more formal.
     This difference in formality creates a dissimilar effect on the character of the spaces. While a visitor to the campus will feel the open freedom of the outdoor paths between buildings, they will feel a palpable change in this as they come upon a crossroads and must allow themselves to be directed to a location, or as they enter inside a building and become confined within it. A visitor to the VitraHaus will feel a less palpable change in traversing between public and private spaces within because of the informal planning and form to both; the lack of formality lends itself to greater ease of habitation and of circulation. Naturally, comfort of potential customers amongst their Home Collection products would have been important to Vitra; the success of Herzog and de Meuron’s blending of public circulation space with private habituation space within the VitraHouse meant the optimization of visitor comfort and display circulation, and it may have been the informal character to these spaces that was the deciding factor in their achievement of this purpose.

Basulto, David. "VitraHaus/Herzog & de Meuron." ArchDaily. . http://www.archdaily.com/50533/vitrahaus-herzog-de-meuron/ (accessed October 26, 2012).

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