Vitra has shared new photography of the latest addition to its corporate campus-slash-architecture park in Weil Am Rhein, Germany, quite literally in bloom: an immersive new landscape by perennial-embracing Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf.
Populated by over 30,000 plants of largely the shrub, grass, and wildflower variety, the roughly 43,000-square-foot garden was first planted in May 2020. The garden is in an area straddling the northern and southern ends of Vitra’s sprawling campus between the VitraHaus, a Herzog & de Meuron-designed building that serves as the fabled Swiss modern furniture makers’ flagship store, and Álvaro Siza’s Factory Building. Not too far off is a modular 1953 filling station designed by Jean Prouvé (installed in 2003); a 1975 dome structure created by Charter Industries in collaboration with Thomas C. Howard (installed in 200o); a Jasper Morrison-designed bus stop (2006); Carsten Höller’s Vitra Slide Tower (2014), and smaller structures and installations by the likes of Thomas Schütte, Tobias Rehberge, Renzo Piano Workshop, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, and others. Frank Gehry’s Factory Building (1984) is situated just across Charles Eames Strasse.
The Piet Oudolf Garden, which will open to the public at the end of June, will be in full bloom later this summer through early fall. Typical of Oudolf-designed landscapes, the garden at the Vitra campus embraces a naturalistic, almost wild appearance achieved through a rigorous, highly precise planning process and the use of self-regenerating species usually ignored in popular garden design in favor of more decorative plants. That same approach was also used in his work on New York City’s High Line (with Diller Scofidio + Renfro and James Corner Field Operations), the Lurie Garden at Chicago’s Millennium Park (with Kathryn Gustafson and Shannon Nichol), and the upcoming Oudolf Garden Detroit at Belle Isle Park.
In a press release, Vitra, which is technically headquartered not in Weil am Rhein but just across the Rhine in the Swiss municipality of Birsfelden, noted that Oudolf’s planting provides the framework for the garden while declining to “serve as mere decoration for the surrounding architecture.” As Vitra explained: “Instead, the landscaping complements the buildings and imbues them with new perspectives […] the garden aims to draw the visitor’s attention away from the buildings and down to the ground, creating a state of inspiring disorientation.”
“I want people to lose themselves in the garden instead of passing through it,” said Oudolf of the landscape, which he envisioned as a space that provides guests with an experience “both aesthetic and emotional.”
As explained by Rolf Fehlbaum, Chairman Emeritus of Vitra, the Piet Oudolf Garden follows previous landscape interventions on the campus. That includes Álvaro Siza’s hornbeam hedge-flamed promenade that links the northern end of the campus, an area anchored by the VitraHaus, the Tadao Ando-designed Conference Pavilion (1993), and Gehry’s Vitra Design Museum (1989), with the southern portion, which includes Zaha Hadid’s 1993 Fire Station building (her first built work) and Herzog & de Meuron’s Vitra Schaudepot (2016).
“Piet Oudolf’s garden has added a new dimension to the Campus and opens up a new, ever-changing experience for visitors,” said Fehlbaum.