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Vitra


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(established 1950)

In the closing decades of the 20th century Vitra became widely known as a fashionable manufacturer of furniture, commissioning experimental designs from a range of designers including Ron Arad, Frank Gehry, Shiro Kuramata, Alessandro Mendini, Ettore Sottsass, Borek Sípek, and Philippe Starck, in addition to its own exciting Design Museum building by Frank Gehry. The company's origins lay in Willi Fehlbaum's shop‐fitting business, established in Switzerland in 1934. The Vitra furniture manufacturing company in Weil am Rhein in Germany was established for the production of office furniture by Willi's son Rolf in 1950. Made under licence from the Herman Miller Company early products that set out Vitra's corporate design ambitions encompassed furniture designed by Charles and Ray Eames (including the Lounge Chair, 1956), George Nelson (including the Marshmallow Sofa, 1957), and, a little later, Verner Panton (the Panton Chair, 1967). In the 1970s Vitra's growing reputation for high‐quality design and a visually dynamic corporate identity was further enhanced by Rolf Felbaum, who had been made chief executive in 1977. He commissioned company buildings by highly innovative designers, including factory buildings by British architect Nicholas Grimshaw (1981) and Italian Antonio Citterio (1992), a conference building by Japanese architect Tadao Ando (1992), and the world‐famous Vitra Design Museum by Frank Gehry, completed in 1989. Amongst the best‐known chairs commissioned by the company under its experimental Vitra Editions initiative, launched in the 1980s, have been Kuramata's How High the Moon armchair in nickel‐plated steel mesh (1986), Sípek's Ota Otanek chair (1988), Philippe Starck's Louix XX stacking chair (1992), and Frank Gehry's Grandpa Chair (reissued in 1993). Amongst the many prizes awarded to Vitra was the Lucky Strike Design Award given to Rolf Fehlbaum in 1994.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.


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