The Vitra Design Museum
If you are visiting Germany (a favourite location with us here at VE!) - then if you can, take the time to visit the Vitra Design Museum.
At the Vitra Schaudepot, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the Vitra Design Museum presents key objects from its extensive collection, creating one of the largest permanent exhibitions and research sites on contemporary furniture design.
Today, the collection encompasses a total of around 20,000 objects, with some 7000 pieces of furniture, more than 1000 lighting objects and numerous archives, as well as the estates of such designers as Charles & Ray Eames, Verner Panton and Alexander Girard.
Although the main museum building by Frank Gehry (1989) was originally conceived to house the collection, the museum uses the space to stage major temporary exhibitions. The construction of the Schaudepot allows for a permanent presentation of the collection, while also offering a diverse educational programme.
The cornerstone for the collection came from the museum's founder Rolf Fehlbaum. In the 1980s he assembled a collection of furniture, which he transferred to the Vitra Design Museum upon its founding in 1989. Ever since then, the collection has been expanded by the museum's directors and now numbers among the largest of its kind.
Schaudepot is divided into three areas with a total of around 1600 sqm. On the ground floor, the extensive permanent exhibition is housed. The central focus is a selection of more than 400 key pieces of modern furniture design from the 1800s to the present, including early Bugholz furniture, iconic modernist pieces by Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto or Gerrit Rietveld, but also more recent examples of 3D-printed objects and lesser-known or anonymous objects, prototypes and experimental models.
The permanent exhibition is complemented by smaller, temporary exhibits focusing on items of the stored collection. The selection reflects key pieces from the museum while simultaneously providing a comprehensive overview of the history of furniture design - from stylistic and technical innovations to the societal transformations reflected in the objects. Detailed information on the objects is available from a digital catalogue that visitors can access via their smartphones or guest tablets that can be requested from the reception.
While the permanent exhibition in the main hall is structured chronologically, the glimpses of the other collection holdings on the lower ground level present thematic focal points and offer a view behind the scenes of the museum where conservators and curators deal with objects from the collection on a daily basis. Other aspects also serve to make museum work more accessible to the public. From the café, guests can see into the museum offices and the library, which is open to researchers and students on request. The restoration workshop can also be visited as part of their guided campus tours.
With these features, the Vitra Design Museum raises awareness of the collection and its focus on furniture design to make it more accessible for visitors and research. At the same time, it reflects recent developments that are characteristic for the contemporary design and museum world.
The Vitra Design Museum would be unthinkable without its extensive collection of design objects. They form the basis of many exhibitions, publications and research projects. The focus of the collection lies on industrial furniture design and lighting – in these areas, the unique holdings of the museum are of international importance. They are supplemented by smaller groups of objects, including cutlery, consumer electronics and architectural models.
The Collection of the Eames Office as well as estates of prominent designers such as Alexander Girard, Anton Lorenz, George Nelson and Verner Panton are also maintained by the Vitra Design Museum. The expert preservation of the collection is ensured by the museum’s own conservation workshop. An extensive document archive and a library complement the collection, which is constantly expanding.
The Vitra Design Museum regularly provides loans to other museums and galleries, including renowned partners as the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.