Hagop Tejirian

Hagop Tejirian

Beirut, LB


Zaha Hadid - Vitra Fire Station

Zaha Hadid began her remarkable architectural career in the late 1970s, it would not be until the 1990s that her work would lift out her drawings and paintings to be realized in physical form. The Vitra Fire Station, designed for the factory complex of the same name in Weil-am-Rhein, Germany, was the among the first of Hadid’s design projects to be built.

The Vitra Campus is a vast complex comprising factories, showrooms, and the Vitra Design Museum. Since the original factory’s destruction by a fire in 1981, Vitra has commissioned replacement structures by renowned architects from around the world: buildings by Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, Alvaro Siza, and several other notable designers all stand within the same estate. After a bolt of lightning caused a fire that burned more than half the factory campus in a single night, Vitra was determined to prevent a similar disaster from destroying its new campus.

Hadid was initially tasked only to design the fire station itself. The project, however, would eventually expand to include boundary walls, an exercise space, and a bicycle shed. These elements were to sit along a bend in the main road running through the Vitra Campus. The street was designed to act as a linear landscaped zone, one that would reference the layout of the surrounding farmland

It was the road, as well as the factory sheds surrounding the site, that would inform the rationale of Hadid’s proposal. As envisaged by Hadid, the Vitra Fire Station would do more than simply exist as an object in space. Rather, she used the building to define and structure the street on which it faces. It would also serve to shield the campus from its incongruously traditional, vernacular neighbors.

The building, as in her paintings, carry a powerful sensation of movement. The impression of the building changes dramatically as one moves past it – the walls, which are visually impenetrable from oblique angles, suddenly afford a view to the inside of the garage as one approaches a perpendicular angle. Lines inscribed in the pavement reflect the movement of the building’s intended occupants: tracks curve out of the garage meant to house fire engines, while other paths hint at the choreographed exercises of the firemen. Even the walls of the building seem poised to slide past each other; in the case of the garage, two large panels actually do.

The resulting impression is that of “frozen movement.” It is a fitting architectural mood for a fire station, which must remain on constant alert; the design reflects that tension, as well as the potential to burst into action at any given moment. With as much effort as Hadid put in to represent the nature of a fire station, it is ironic that her design saw no real service in that role – instead, it is now used an exhibition and special event space.

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Status: School Project
Location: Rhein, Germany
Additional Credits: 3rd year Architecture Project