Located in the German town of Weil am Rhein, close to the Swiss and French border, the Vitra Campus is an amalgamation of utilitarian, industrial, commercial and cultural structures, created by some of the most renowned architects from across the world. The variety of architectural styles and philosophies that these buildings originate from can be illustrated by comparing two of the structures that were completed in 1993 – the Conference Pavilion by Tadao Ando and the Fire Station by Zaha Hadid.
Positioned carefully in the midst of cherry trees and sunk partly into the ground, the Conference Pavilion was Tadao Ando’s first work outside Japan. Not only is it immediately reflective of the zen-like quality of traditional Japanese architecture, but is also characteristic of the calm and restrained nature of Ando’s buildings.
A sunken courtyard anchors the Pavilion’s many conference and meeting rooms, some of which look into the courtyard itself while others look outwards to the cherry trees. The material palette comprises of concrete, wood and glass; and a tranquil, monastery-like peace and order is radiated by all the spaces.
Further inside the Vitra Campus, Zaha Hadid’s fire station stands in complete contrast to Tadao Ando’s Conference Pavilion, though both the structures date back to the same time period and were constructed predominantly of the same material ie cast in-situ concrete.
The structure was envisioned by Hadid as a linear extension to the surrounding landscape, with a series of concrete planes that tilt, skew, converge and diverge to define space rather than occupy it. These give the Fire Station a rather dynamic spatial quality akin to frozen motion, perhaps as a nod to its intended-program that would require inhabitants to be in a constant state of alert and attention.
Text And Photos By Kunal Bhatia