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Architect’s pantheon at Basel's Vitra Design Museum

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Never mind that it’s actually located on German soil, the Vitra Design Museum is one of Basel, Switzerland’s most popular cultural sights, attracting architecture aficionados from all around the world.

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It was in the early 1980s that Vitra CEO Rolf Fehlbaum began collecting the works of modern furniture designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Alvar Aalto, and Jean Prouvé – but a calamitous fire in 1981 proved oddly serendipitous as it caused Fehlbaum to begin reaching out to architects to reconceptualize the entire Vitra campus.

A cultural institution of architecture, design, furniture, and interior design, the Vitra opened in 1989 with Frank Gehry’s first European work (before Bilbao, which appeared in 1997).

A factory building by Nicholas Grimshaw (also his first realized project) was followed by Claes Oldenburg’s Tools,” which caused a reconsideration of the master plan, resulting in a world-class campus of buildings from architects such as Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando, Richard Buckminster Fuller, and Herzog & de Meuron (whose architectural practice is based in Basel).

The deconstructivist Fire Station by Hadid (also the first work of hers to be realized) is a marvel to behold (and to imagine filled with firemen – check out the shower stalls) while Ando’s Conference Pavilion is a meditative sanctuary whose serene presence might make even a conference alluring.

The demi-geodesic dome by Fuller would be perfect for a wedding reception – with bartenders manning the bar over at Prouvé’s Thirties petrol station.

In short, the Vitra Design Museum is a mecca for architecture – and everyone you meet on the grounds has a kind of awed reverence for being amidst such world-class buildings all located in such a relatively compact space.

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