The Birth of a Legend: Vitra Fire Station

Zaha Hadid, one of the most influential architects of our age, pushed the boundaries of architecture throughout her projects throughout her career of more than 20 years. Hadid is known for her ability to transform the most unthinkable forms into functional structures today. However, in her career, which she started in the late ‘70s, people did not admire her work today.

Hadid’s first architectural project was the Vitra Fire Station in Germany, which was built in 1989. In a sense, this building is Hadid’s proving herself in the field of architecture. After its successful construction, the Vitra Fire Station paves the way for a brand new understanding in both artistic and architectural terms. Here, the legend of Zaha Hadid starts from here.

From Abstract Painting to Architecture

Zaha Hadid is one of the architects with a strong artistic side. It is not difficult to reach this information by looking at the façade forms of the projects it has already signed. However, before her architectural career, she was known in the art world for her paintings.

Hadid created abstract and expressive architectural sketches and foresaw her architectural design approach for years. However, the problem was that many people could not see them more than just works of art. Although most people valued Hadid’s sketches in an artistic sense, they did not find them suitable in the architectural sense.

Everything Changes With Fire

Today, Vitra Fire Station is located within the Vitra Campus. This vast campus area included a factory operating at full capacity until 1981. However, the fire started in the factory with a lightning strike in 1981 and destroyed almost half of the campus. After the fire, Vitra wanted to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. They also decided to redesign the campus from top to bottom to erase the traces of that great destruction. In this direction, they worked with many of the world’s famous architects.

On the newly designed campus, Vitra was leaving nothing to chance. They even decided to have a fire brigade on the campus to speed up the extinguishing if an unexpected fire broke out. And they gave the design work of the Fire Station building to Zaha Hadid in this way. Initially, the project included only the station building. Over time, they added some elements that enabled the building to integrate with the surrounding street. With the addition of border walls, a training area for the fire brigade, and a bicycle park, the project’s scope has greatly expanded.

Perfect Environmental Compliance

Vitra Fire Station is an imposing building that gives an entirely different image on every facade. However, the façade formation of the building is not a coincidence. The Fire Station takes shape with the street around it and strengthens the definition of the road. Thus, the structure becomes fully compatible with the land. Since the station is shaped by considering the points such as bends and the street’s direction, its harmony with its surroundings reaches the maximum level.

The simple but strong stance of the building manages to preserve itself on every facade. However, while doing this, it continues to be perceived as a whole. As the facades, therefore, the terrain changes, the walls sometimes break suddenly and sometimes split into sliding crevices.

Impossible Forms

Vitra Fire Station is the first project of Zaha Hadid brought to life. Therefore, it is one of the most important works of the architect. Because this structure is proof that Hadid can transform the designs he sketched for years into functional systems. With this project, Hadid begins to show in application projects from concept architecture.

However, it cannot be said that the designer has compromised herself for the application project. Different form experiments will later become her signature and show them at the Vitra Fire Station. The structure created with cast-in-place concrete has an unusual form. The long and narrow direction that moves with the sloping walls and its land has given the Vitra Fire Station a unique identity.

Hadid hides all the fasteners to preserve the muscular appearance of the form in her design. When viewed from a distance, it is impossible to see a single roof fastener in the building. Likewise, to increase the aesthetic effect, glass without chopping is preferred. In this state, it is not possible to read the building from the outside. It is necessary to get into it to be able to master its functions. Although the station seems to fit the campus land perfectly, it draws in the user with its muscular stance.

Frozen Movement

Zaha Hadid has created one of the best conceptual architecture examples while designing this technically and aesthetically challenging structure. Hadid did not consider the building independent of its function. While creating her design, she considered a fire station conceptually.

Accordingly, a fire station is a place that is always ready to act, which meets the dynamic effect of this structure. Because even in the quietest time of a station, there is a constant waiting, prepared to perform at any moment. If this is not the case, there is the movement itself. Vitra Fire Station is also inspired by this dynamic stance of the fire brigade buildings.

The masses sliding over each other represent a movement frozen in time. This movement, called the moment of explosion, was created by considering the function and the nature of its use.

What About Today? 

Today, the Vitra Fire Station continues to stand inside the Vitra Factory Campus. However, the campus’s function and, naturally, the structures within are quite different now. The campus has turned into a cultural center rather than a production site. The Vitra Fire Station is ironically used as a museum in this center. The building, which also includes a conference hall, continues to host many events.

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