Architecture Report: Lincoln Logs in Basel

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Published June 17, 2010

COURTESY VITRA

 

Like everyone else in Basel yesterday evening, I found myself outside the convention center where Art Basel takes place, at Messerplatz, trying to negotiate my way across the German border to Weil am Rhein for the opening of the new Vitra museum. Holding my passportâ??and feeling ever-so-slightly like a competitive drug muleâ??I boarded a Vitra-provided shuttle for the 20-minute trip.

This expedition is an annual staple of the Art Basel line-up, and this year included an opening for a newly completed five-story Herzog and de Meuron-designed gallery-cum-flagship store. A gallery in its display strategy, visitors can shop each gallery using a card that, when scanned, shows the price and color information of the items on display. Visitors can add the customized items to their carts using the same system and, at the end, hand the card to a cashier. It’s like Supermarket Sweep, but with a higher price-point.
 
The building itself echoes the many grain barns in this region of rural Germany. The architects took the barn’s standardized form and grouped them, like Lincoln Logs.

The evening could have been ruined by the rain that’s been forcing most of the Art Basel events indoors and under tarps this week, but the more than 250 extremely proud-looking local Herzog and de Meuron employees led the way to a Buckminster Fuller-designed geodesic dome on the premises and turned it into a nightclub, complete with DJ and disco ball.