Vitra Fire Station has already turned 23, but it still appears almost untouched by age. This is the first large-scale project of Zaha Hadid, after her, as an architecht’s, career took off and she became known to the general public. This is a combination of odd forms and angles, which in the 1980s led to a fascination of the critics. It’s extraordinarily similar to Kazmir Malevich’s embodied painting and this is not even surprising, because Zaha Hadid’s early works clearly experience the impact of Russian geometric Abstractionism and Constructivism.
Vitra is a Swiss company that has secured its place in the world market by producing furniture. Headquartered in Birsfelden, Switzerland, the production takes place in various countries. One of them being Germany, the city of Weil am Rhein; This factory complex has been known due to the fact that the buildings there are constructed by renowned architects. One of them being Zaha Hadid’s designed fire station.
On 20 July 1981 fire broke out in the complex, causing great damage to the company. The enterprise was not included in the city’s scope of fire stations, that is why the occurred fire failed to be timely extinguished, so the company suffered a lot. Conscious of the existence of its own fire station, Vitra started renewing its complex, updating its plan and design and searching for an architect to build a fire station; They even formed a fire brigade. In 1990, Zaha Hadid took over this project and the construction began.
The building occupies 852 square meters and its construction was completed in 1993. The street, at the end of which fire station is located follows the industrial complex from one end to another. The building is a part of a single, linear structure and it continues this trend; defines its space and does not block it.
It is narrow, lacks right angles and is dynamic, as if frozen in the blast. The fire station is divided into two parts and creates a kind of linear structure. In the building steel dividers are installed which create an illusion of spatial instability. While creating this building, Hadid massively uses an optical illusion to “trick” the viewers. The mass is distributed in many points, starting from a protruded roof and finishing with staircase steps. Inside, the walls are arranged in a way that create multi layers, and so leave a sense of permanent movement; The lower and upper floors seem to glide over one another. The second floor houses a kitchen for the fire fighters; Even today, the beautiful room is still in a wonderful condition as if time has done nothing to it.
Fire station was staffed by volunteers working for Vitra complex. It continued to operate until the time when the city’s fire brigade finally scoped the area of the building so it lost its function. Since then the company uses it to display its own products.
Hadid could not survive the criticism though. The building was accused of its impracticability; Critics say that this is why it lost its function. Despite this, the fire station is still a subject of much admiration.
Author: Meri Khamkhadze
English Edit: Nutsa Namoradze