Mid-Century to Modern
Vitra is a manufacturer of office furniture and home furnishings. The Vitra headquarters is located in the Swiss Biersfelden near Basel. On the other side of the Rhine, in Weil am Rhein, the furniture manufacturer maintains an area, known as the Vitra Campus. Here are sales, logistics, production, training rooms, showrooms (Vitra House) and a museum (Vitra Design Museum) located. Here are also a so-called Verner Panton Way, a path lined with coloured bars, as well as the Vitra Slide Tower, an experience of art to slides and for the purpose of views.
Since the 1950s, Vitra manufactures drafts of designers. First the company founders Erika and Willi Fehlbaum produced the furniture of George Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames in Weil am Rhein. Already in 1934 Fehlbaum took over a business for shop fitting, which is increasingly changing to furniture production.
On a trip to the USA, the Swiss couple meets the american design couple Ray and Charles Eames. From Herman Miller they receive the sales license. In the US his interior objects are already established. Back in Europe Verner Panton crossed their way. He is quite hellbent on designing a cantilever chair completely made of plastic. The Fehlbaums believe in the idea and support the designer. After a long time of development the Panton Chair comes on the market in 1967. Based on this foundation over the years a productive collaboration with Verner Panton and other progressive designers developed. The range of furnishings for commercial, public and private spaces grows.
In 1981, in the meantime Rolf Fehlbaum had taken up the position as his fathers successor, a fire destroys many of the historically grown manufacturing buildings. Since then buildings by renowned architects like Frank Gehry, Nicholas Grimshaw, Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando, Alvaro Siza, Herzog & de Meuron and Sanaa gather at this place and form the Vitra Campus. The Vitra Design Museum is the first building by Frank Gehry outside North America. Tadao Ando immortalizes himself with a meeting and conference building, which is completed in 1993, for the first time outside of Japan. In the same year Zaha Hadid celebrates a first building, as well. The Vitra Fire Station is her first realized building, and advertised her spectacular style.
In addition to a breeding ground for contemporary design Vitra responds with “Net ‘n Nest” to the changing demands in daily work.
“Net” sees the office as a center of communication and at the same time as a retreat, the “nest”. With the ID Chair, Vitra announces an own product in the office chair segment in in 2010. According to the company, the chair offers 8.000 possible configurations.
All implementations sould be carried by an ecological thought and economic responsibility. Vitra sees no externally imposed obligation hereunder. But it is rather an aspect of design that has always been a part of the company’s industrial culture. At Vitra, it goes without saying that furniture is valuable when its production, utilisation and recycling does not harm people or the environment.
Product longevity is central to the company’s contribution to sustainable development; short-lived styling is avoided at all costs.
This can be seen most clearly in the classical pieces of furniture that have been used for decades, had several owners and have then even ended up as a part of a collection.
Because of their value, design classics by Vitra are predestined to be copied. Most copies come from Italy and the UK, for example to Germany and are sold there in a big way. Who wants to be sure to get an original, should always buy from a specialist dealer. For Panton Chairs and all other Verner Panton design classics the dealer Tagwerc is a secure source of supply.
“Sustainability is just like morals: one should live by them and not just talk about them. Our roots in modern design make the first step
easy: we make products that avoid the superfluous and last for a very long time”, so Rolf Fehlbaum, Chairman of Vitra. Since 2013 niece Nora Fehlbaum leads the company’s fortunes.