Vitra unveils new London home in the Tramshed, Shoreditch
London Design Festival 2022: after a year-long renovation, Vitra opens the door to its new showroom in the heart of Shoreditch
To coincide with the London Design Festival 2022 (17 – 25 September), Vitra unveils its new London showroom, with a renovation of the grade II-listed Tramshed. The building was originally designed in 1905 by Emmanuel Vincent Harris, and served as an electricity transformer station for the Eastern London Tramway.
This is the first time Vitra has undertaken a renovation project of this scale and ambition, and the team, led by the company’s creative director of scenography, Till Weber, respectfully restored the space to highlight its original features. The building, Weber explains, was designed in classical mannerist style, featuring a stock brick façade introducing a double-height hall that allowed cranes and machinery to operate in the space. Inside, the company will showcase its contemporary collections – by the likes of Jasper Morrison and Barber Osgerby, who also happen to be neighbours – as well as reissues of design legends and pieces by Artek.
‘We approached the project with tremendous respect,’ explains Weber, ‘as it is a pleasure and a privilege to maintain historical buildings and their precious rare detailing and materials, preserving what is possible, revealing and showing the traces of time instead of covering them up.’ Throughout the space, original features were maintained as close to the original as possible, stripping out the unnecessary elements left from previous renovations and celebrating the building’s patina.
The final result, Weber notes, is ‘a reaction to the space’, showing how the colourful, modern forms of Vitra’s furniture and objects can interact with historical surroundings, the old and the new enriching each other.
Vitra London showroom: an eclectic harmony of spaces
The showroom’s structure offers a sense of discovery: the grand hall’s space (the centre of what is dubbed ‘The Club’) is interrupted by a silver curtain at its centre, creating a secluded oval space and dividing the front area from the back.
On one side, a terrazzo bar (‘a communal centrepiece’, comments Weber) contributes to enliven the space, while the side aisle opposite presents a showcase of office furniture responding to a diverse range of needs – from meetings to workshops to focus work.
Upstairs, a mezzanine area is treated as an aesthetically calming retreat, and, as Weber notes, an opportunity to ‘show a collage of the Vitra approach to home interiors’. Plants, accessories and artworks (including a new body of work by Erwan Bouroullec for The Wrong Shop) complete the interiors.
Downstairs, the building’s basement was transformed to create ‘The Gallery’, an industrial white box that will be used for exhibitions – and that makes its debut with a presentation of Jean Prouve’s classics in a newly curated palette of colours. A further event and hospitality space (‘The Loft’) at the back of the building will open in 2023.
‘It was necessary to find an interior language compatible with the impressive industrial architecture of the Tramshed,’ explains Weber. The colour scheme chosen for the main space – based on white, dark red and green – echoes the building’s existing architectural colours. ‘Carefully curating the selection of furnishings, we aimed for a novel interplay between the historic building’s existing colours and materials and new elements and furniture by Vitra and Artek.
‘This space for us is an opportunity to play, and it offers it all: we can do a museum-style set-up, we can present new pieces, and we can offer different ways to look at focused and communal work. It shows that Vitra can do transversal spaces well.’ §