Symbolism within the Vitra Campus

It has been said that architecture is the science of everything. In our profession, we must know a little bit of everything to do our jobs correctly. In addition to knowing about technical drawings and structural elements, we must also know a great deal about each site, culture, history, art, and much more. Because of this, architects have the ability to impact the public and use their designs as much more than just architecture. The lecture about Structure and Identity was about how architects use a building to identify with the public and to symbolize something such as power or wealth. Architects are able to send any message they want by utilizing their knowledge when designing. An example of this that, having visited the site I find very interesting, is the Vitra Campus located in Weil am Rhein, Germany. 

It is common knowledge that the Vitra Campus was reconstructed after a large fire destroyed a lot of the production factories. The campus contains a diverse variety of buildings from an array of world-renowned architects. The VitraHaus is the newest and probably most important addition to the campus. Since it contains the reception and ticket offices, the café, the gift shop, and the production gallery, it assumes the unofficial role of entryway into the campus. Due to this, it has also gained the role of marking the campus. Herzog & de Meuron took this into account when designing their building. They have a multi-layered concept that is innovative as well as an aesthetically pleasing facade. This was due to the fact that it houses a design store and a design museum. The point of the design is to show the public that the design of the building reflects the design showcased inside. Similarly, Frank Gehry’s Vitra Design Museum has a very expressive form that is all about suggesting movement within the facade.  The museum has been described as sculpturesque which is fitting for a design museum. It is said to be a “surprising re-interpretation of the ‘white box’” by the Vitra website and it can be argued that Gehry is symbolizing the creativity of the design within as well as thinking outside of the said “white box” with his organic forms. In stark contrast to Gehry’s building is Tadao Ando’s Vitra Conference Pavilion. Ando wanted to contrast with the wild form of Gehry and strove for a “low profile” design that is meant to show a seriousness, preciseness and dedication. He does this with simple, elegant forms and polished and austere materials. Continuing further into the campus you find Nicholas Grimshaw’s factory building. This final example is to show how Grimshaw designed his factory in a specific manner that is very different to the other architect’s symbolism. The large, block-like and monumental building is very structural, practical and functional. These aspects were all carefully delineated for specific reasons. The practicality is meant to show that the factory is separate from the more elaborate designs because it is a serious workspace. The monumentality of the design can also be meant to suggest the power of the company in contrast to the other buildings, which are meant to highlight the genius of their designs.

In conclusion, studying this campus has shown me a great deal about how architects can use their designs to identify with their target audience. Each building was designed with a specific message in mind and I think that each one contributes to the general message that the Vitra Campus is trying to send. The Vitra Campus was meant to symbolize the undeniable power of design. Although each building contributes in different ways to this image, they were all designed by the architects to contribute to the overall message. 

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