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Study Abroad in Europe Fall 2009 Lisa Meyer

Photographs Sketches Landesgartenschau Pavilion and Vitra Fire Station: Response to Landscape

Landesgartenschau Pavilion and Vitra Fire Station Response to Landscape Lisa Meyer

LF One Pavilion

The Vitra campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany is a collection of concrete buildings all serving the furniture design manufacturer. After a massive fire in 1981, Vitra decided to build a fire station as there were no nearby stations to serve them. They chose emerging architect, Zaha Hadid, for the final design. The fire station now sits at the end of the main street, appearing like an explosion out of the ground suggesting the uneasiness of its purpose.

Not far away, visitors to the 1999 Garden Show in Weil am Rhein, Germany easily could have ascended the ramp of the show’s exhibition hall without realizing they were walking on a piece of infrastructure. Built just miles from Vitra, the Landscape Formation One Pavilion, designed by Zaha Hadid, subtly grows out of its surroundings while also creating a dynamic improvement and intensification of the terrain.

The fluid collection of paths which merge together to form the structure emphasize movement and make the building appear to continue into the ground on both sides. This project will first examine the forms of both of Hadid’s works, both of which are intended to have deep relationship to their surrounding landforms, then look at their strong differences despite this common essential idea.

Above Left: Conceptual Illustration Above Right: LF One Site Center: Building Plan and movement diagram Bottom: Building Section

Horticultural shows (Landesgartenschau) began around 1980 in Germany with the primary focus of improving quality of life and the environment in the places these exhibitions occur. The events usually take place in more desolate or damaged landscapes where regional planners intend to advance urban design in the area. Zaha Hadid was commissioned to design the exhibition hall in Weil am Rhein for the 1999 show based on the strength of her nearby Vitra fire station, although the pavilion turned out drastically different.

Requirements for the space included an 8,000 square foot structure which could accommodate offices, a restaurant, and large galleries, while also being environmentally sensitive. Hadid’s final design was a subtle architecture, meant not to close or partition, but rather to suggest and open the visitor to new spaces and landforms. It was a place intended to enrich and complement the landscape in which it appears to bleed into.

Several ramps construct the pavilion, yet each takes on a distinctive function. Some are roofs, some walkways, while others become gardens or places to view the surrounding gardens and landscape. Some of these strands melt down into the ground, and others merely converge into each other. The interior is linear space building off of the concrete ramps of the exterior. Although the garden show lasted only for a short time, the building can continue to stand alone without objects inside due to this strong form.

Left: Conceptual Illustration Top Right: Fire Station Front Center Right: Interior Bottom Right: Site Plan

The Vitra campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany contains an array of structures for the furniture design company including a factory and a design museum. The fire station project, which also included designing boundary walls, an exercise ground for the firemen, and a bicycle shed, became Zaha Hadid’s first built project.

Lisa Meyer

The structure needed to not only stand out amidst the surrounding factories, but also define space and create a boundary for the campus. The result was a linear building running along the main street which responds to the terrain in which it sits, but also is aggressive with its angular forms. It houses a garage for the fire engines, lockers and showers for firemen, a kitchen, and a conference room.

The building captures the urgency and haste of the function inside. The large sliding doors which form a moving wall, the precision of sharp angles, and the raw concrete all give an uneasy sense of being on the alert at all times. Although at one time, this fire station served the purpose for which it was built for, it no longer is used as a fire station for Vitra but is used for exhibition space.

Vitra Fire Station

LF One Pavilion

While both the fire station and the LF One Pavilion draw on their surroundings for inspiration in their forms and are mere miles away from each other, they hardly carry any resemblance.

While the fire station becomes more of an object and a destination, LF One, in contrast, responds to the terrain by becoming an extension of it, suggesting movement and allowing for experience.

In contrast to the sharp angles of the fire station, LF One flows and moves in and out of the terrain.

So, is one response better than the other? Not necessarily.

The Pavilion is a smooth reference to landforms such as mountains, hills, rivers, and canyons, while the Vitra fire station sits among several other concrete buildings and draws from its combination of surroundings with both its sharp angles and curved walls.

Although they sit in the same countryside, not only do they have different purposes, but also one buries itself among gardens and pure nature,

while the other is surrounded by not only the natural landscape, but also an artificial one which is a plethora of concrete cutting into the terrain. One evokes serenity and movement, while the other provokes tension. The buildings have a common designer, common location, sit in the same landscape, yet each responds in a unique way according to its surroundings and purpose.

Landesgartenschau Pavilion and Vitra Fire Station Response to Landscape

Works Consulted Landesgartenschau N.p., 10 Jan. 2010. Web. 13 Jan. 2010. <>. Landesgartenschau Weil am Rhein, Germany N.p., Oct. 1999. Web. 5 Jan. 2010. <>. Schmacher, Patrik. Zaha Hadid Major and Recent Works. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2004. Print. Weston, Richard. Key Buildings of the Twentieth Century. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004. Print. Zaha Hadid Architects N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2010. <>.

Lisa Meyer

Europe Study Abroad - Fall 2009  

Photographs, Sketches

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