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Last year, IT and I went to visit the Vitra Campus – located just across the Swiss-German border in Weil am Rhein. See our earlier posts about the Campus and the company’s showrooms. We joined a walking tour of the private areas of the Campus – the factories, the warehouse and the fire station.

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Zaha Hadid’s first completed building is perhaps the most famous fire station in the world. The building was commissioned after a disastrous fire at the Vitra factory in 1981.

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Completed in 1994, the building housed a garage for fire engines along with another wing containing locker rooms, showers and common areas.

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The slanting walls are not caused by my camera, they do not meet at right angles.

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The sharp-angled sculptural forms yells “emergency!’ The walls seem to glide past each other.

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According to her firm’s web site, the fire station “emerges as a linear layered series of walls, between which program elements are contained – a representation of “movement frozen” – an alert structure, ready to explode into action at any moment.”

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This building is a key work of so-called Deconstructivism and of late twentieth-century architecture in general.

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For architecture pilgrims, the Vitra Campus is a mecca and this fire station is a high point. Since it no longer functions as a fire station, we were invited inside to sit in the conference room.

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The fire station represents the earliest attempt to translate Hadid’s fantastical, powerful conceptual drawings into a functional architectural space.

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This Fire House project – a complex construction of tilted and clashing planes – looks very different from her later, organic designs.

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Vitra’s voluntary fire fighting team decided to co-operate with the professional city fire brigade and dissolved the factory-based fire fighting teams. As a consequence Vitra no longer needed a fire station and the building became a space for lectures, concerts, and exhibitions.

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Hadid was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2004.

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She worked for her former professors, Koolhaas and Zenghelis, at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, becoming a partner in 1977.

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Hadid established her own London-based architecture practice in 1980.

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On 31 March 2016, Hadid died of a heart attack in a Miami. We did a post about her building in Hyde Park, London (here) shortly after her death.

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