The rising number of public events hold in the Weil am Rhein Vitra Campus has made necessary the creation of a pedestrian path independent from the company enclosure. This new path connects the Zaha Hadid´s fire station (1993), the most famous image from the campus, with the Vitra Design Museum, designed by Frank Ghery (1989) and the VitraHaus, by Herzog & De Meuron.
Plans envisage that visitors, who exclusively arrive from the north by car or bus, will in future also travel in by tram and be able to enter the campus in the south. To this end, at least parts of the south side need to be opened up. Even Zaha Hadid’s former fire station is to be made accessible to the public.
This gave rise to the idea of routing the planned pedestrian passage from this site along the west side of the company grounds and around the factory building by Álvaro Siza. In September 2011, Vitra’s Chairman Emeritus Rolf Fehlbaum went to Siza with this proposal. The Portuguese architect was a logical choice, for he not only realised the brick-clad production hall in 1994, but had also devised the layout of the two parking areas. Moreover, pathways connecting a building to the surrounding landscape are an enduring theme of his work. This interest extends from one of his renowned early projects, the swimming pool complex in Leça da Palmeira (1959–1973), and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santiago di Compostela (1994) and the Architecture Faculty of Porto (1995) up to his most important current project, the entrance and visitor centre for the Alhambra in Granada, which Siza has been planning since 2010 together with his Spanish project partner Juan Domingo Santos.
The Álvaro Siza Promenade which opened last July covers some 500 meters. The asphalt path starts in a small piazza at the “VitraHaus”, and is flanked by hornbeam hedges. Álvaro Siza explains his concept as follows: “I chose this hedge because in the fall it sheds its leaves, offering different views and allowing visitors to experience the change of seasons.”
The repertoire of forms and materials is reduced to a small number of elements. The pathway is syncopated with ‘episodes’ – distinctive sequential settings that offer a variety of unique spatial experiences. In the first phase of development, these include an S-shaped common area framed by hedges, the Vitra Slide Tower by Carsten Höller and an archaic-looking double chamber formed from interpenetrating brick and granite walls. The promenade is like a pilgrimage route marked by multiple stations, simultaneously evoking English gardens with its various ‘follies’. With the individual architecturally expressed elements, Siza counters the Romantic idea of an indistinguishable melding of nature and architecture – landscape and geometry follow their own laws but, as is typical of Siza’s work, find their way to a state of balance on a higher level. Siza otherwise used materials likewise to be found in the Siza Hall: bricks fired in the Netherlands and Portuguese granite.
In front of Siza’s 1994 factory building, the pathway makes a slight turn to the left where an S-shaped structure of hedges and granite benches invites visitors to make a brief stop before veering to the right to cross the connecting path between the employee parking lot and the Siza factory building and continue in a wide arc toward the Weil-Haltingen roadway, which forms the western border of the company premises. The path passes by the Vitra Slide Tower by Carsten Höller and through the space between the street, made to appear more distant by the intervening hedge, and the two corners of the Siza factory building, leading into an exterior space enclosed on three sides by a high wall that acts as the central joint of the promenade. A narrow gate-like break in the southern corner of the wall opens up to a further space framed by two angled granite walls and feeds into the last section of the promenade, which – widening from three to ten metres and framed on both sides by strips of granite – runs parallel to the west side of the Siza building and leads to the Fire Station by Zaha Hadid. The promenade ends in another small plaza, framed by blocks of granite and connected to the main axis of the Campus, which could also provide a future point of access for the planned city-side entrance to the Campus. The Álvaro-Siza-Promenade is illuminated at night by lighting which was likewise designed by the architect.
The path elegantly and playfully leads visitors past the campus and at the same time combines architecture and nature. “This open space gives the buildings and objects and autonomy of their own, the areas are ideal for events, adults and children alike can make use of them,” Siza comments.
ÁLVARO SIZA VIEIRA
Álvaro Joaquim Melo Siza Vieira was born in Matosinhos (near Porto), in 1933. From 1949-55 he studied at the School of Architecture, University of Porto. His first built project was finished in 1954. From 1955-58 he was collaborator of Arch. Fernando Távora. He taught at the School of Architecture (ESBAP) from 1966-69 and was appointed Professor of “Construction” in 1976. He was a Visiting Professor at the Ècole Polythéchnique of Lausanne, the University of Pennsylvania, Los Andes University of Bogotá and the Graduate School of Design of Harvard University; he taught at the School of Architecture of Porto (jubilate in 2003).
He is the author of many projects such as: the Boa Nova Tea House and Restaurant; 1200 dwellings built in Malagueira, Évora; the Superior School of Education in Setúbal, the new School of Architecture in Porto; the Library of Aveiro University; the Museum of Modern Art in Porto; the Church and Parochial Centre in Marco de Canavezes; the Pavilion of Portugal for EXPO ’98 and the Pavilion of Portugal in Hannover 2000 (with Souto de Moura); the dwelling and offices complex of “Terraços de Bragança” in Lisbon; and he has rebuilt the burnt area of Chiado in Lisbon since 1988, including the projects for some buildings like Castro e Melo, Grandella, Chiado Stores, and others.
He has been coordinated the plan of Schilderswijk’s recuperation in The Hague, Holland, since 1985, which finished in 89; in 1995 he finished the project for blocs 6-7-8 in Ceramique Terrein, Maastricht.
In Spain he has completed the projects for the Meteorological Centre of Villa Olimpica in Barcelona; the Museum of Contemporary Art of Galicia and the Faculty of Information Sciences in Santiago de Compostela; the Rectorate of the Alicante University; Zaida building – offices, commercial and dwelling complex in Granada; Sportive Complex Cornellà de L’lobregat in Barcelona.
Cultural Centre and auditorium for the Ibere Camargo Foundation in Brazil; Municipal Centre of Rosario in Argentina; lodging-house in the Plan of Recuperation and Transformation of Cidade Velha in Cap Vert; Serpentine Pavillion (2005) with Eduardo Souto Moura; Museum of Modern Art of Naples in Italy; Anyang Pavilion in South Korea (with Carlos Castanheira); Mimesis Museum in South Korea (with Carlos Castanheira); are to be mentioned.
He has participated in several lectures and conferences in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Norway, Holland, Switzerland, Austria, England, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Canada, United States, Romania, Greece, South Korea and Sweden.
Having been invited to participate in international competitions, he won the first place in Schlesisches Tor, Kreuzberg, Berlin (now built), at the recuperation of Campo di Marte in Venice (1985) and at the renewal of Casino and Café Winkler, Salzburg (1986); Cultural Centre for the La Defensa, Madrid (with José Paulo Santos) (1988/89); J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California (with Peter Testa) (1993); Pietà Rondanini Room, Sforzesco Castell, Milan (1999); Special Plan Recoletos-Prado, Madrid (with Juan Miguel Hernandez Leon e Carlos Riaño) (2002); Toledo Hospital (Sánchez-Horneros office) (2003); “Atrio de la Alhambra” in Spain (with Juan Domingo Santos)(2010); “Parco delle Cave”, Lecce in Italy (with Carlos Castanheira) (2010).
He has participated in the competitions for Expo 92 in Sevilla, Spain (with Eduardo Souto de Moura and Adalberto Dias) (1986); for “Un Progetto per Siena”, Italy (with José Paulo Santos) (1988); the Cultural Centre La Defensa in Madrid, Spain (1988/89); the Bibliothèque of France in Paris (1989/90), the Helsinki Museum (with Souto de Moura) (1992-93); Flamenco City of Xerez de la Frontera, Spain (with Juan Miguel Hernandez Leon) (2003).
From 1982 to 2010 has won many different awards and have been assigned with Medals of Cultural Merit from many country around the world. Doctor “Honoris Causa” in various European and International universities.
He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science; “Honorary Fellow” of the Royal Institute of British Architects; AIA/American Institute of Architects; Académie d’Architecture de France and European Academy of Sciences and Arts; Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts; IAA/International Academy of Architecture; American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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