Frederick Fisher and Partners Frederick Fisher and Partners

The California/Swiss Connection

Jake Lazere and David Manzano, designers from FF&P’s Los Angeles office, just returned from a trip to Germany and Switzerland with the Swiss furniture manufacturer Vitra. Funny enough – Vitra’s foray into the furniture business began with another California/Swiss connection when the Fehlbaum family began manufacturing the furniture designs of Los Angeles designers, Ray and Charles Eames, in the 1950s for a European market.

Ray and Charles Eames, image courtesy of Vitra

Jake and David began the trip in Cologne, Germany for Orgatec ’18, a trade fair focusing on new visions for the workplace. They next traveled to Basel, Switzerland to learn more about the furniture manufacturer Vitra and its unique design culture. 

Orgatec was made up of numerous convention center halls filled with booths dedicated to the planning, installation, and design of the office environment and its objects. While the FF&P designers greatly enjoyed exploring the halls, they most enjoyed hearing from the product and space designers about their work. 

Vitra had a large presence at the show with an entire exhibition hall dedicated to displaying the company’s current thinking on the workplace. Jake and David listened to London based architect Sevil Peach discuss her installation in the Vitra hall. She spoke of democratizing the workplace, giving each employee access to the best spaces in the office. Peach also inspired the FF&P team with the concept of ‘landscaping the interior environment of the open office’ – in terms of how she considers proportion and color to create varied and humane workplaces.  

Designer Jay Osgerby made the guys laugh with his quick wit as he discussed a new seating system, Soft Work, that he developed with his partner Edward Barber of the eponymous Barber & Osgerby. Modular and almost domestic – this product was designed to address the increasing informality of workspaces, while also considering what makes for a great place to work – power, surfaces for writing/typing, and ergonomics.

The last stop on the trip was the Vitra Campus – Gehry, Ando, Siza, Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron, SANAA, oh my! Exploring the campus was an amazing opportunity to see the work of some of the most influential architects of the 20th and 21st century in one location, on an active furniture manufacturing campus no less! The FF&P designers greatly respect and appreciate the furniture manufacturer’s dedication to design – in the objects it produces, as well as the buildings and spaces it builds, and the independent museum that operates on its campus. And to think – this all got started with the help of a couple of Californians…

The Vitra Campus with Herzog and de Meuron’s Vitrahaus in the distance and the shadow of Carsten Höller’s Vitra Slide Tower on the lower left