Thomas Schütte, 2018

Blockhaus is a small structure by the German artist Thomas Schütte. Serving as a shelter with a watering place, it adheres to different principles than the buildings on the campus designed by architects, thereby presenting an ambiguous antipode. Set on a slightly irregular hexagonal footprint, the cabin is constructed from untreated Nordic pine which will take on a grey tone as it ages. The visually prominent roof is covered in titanium zinc shingles, whose gleaming metal creates a stark contrast to the archaic log structure.

An opening on one side invites visitors to enter. Two simple benches are mounted along the interior walls. The central area contains a trough fountain made of fired clay, offering fresh water to cool off or enjoy a drink. Blockhaus is an object derived from a 1:10-scale model exhibited by Thomas Schütte in 2016 at the Galerie Konrad Fischer in Düsseldorf. Rolf Fehlbaum, Chairman Emeritus of Vitra, saw the model and asked the artist if he could imagine a full-scale realisation on the Vitra Campus.
Thomas Schütte’s Blockhaus joins other architectural elements on the Vitra Campus, including the Álvaro Siza Promenade, Carsten Höller’s Slide Tower and the monumental Balancing Tools by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, which are nestled amongst the buildings dedicated to specific purposes. Though not planned from the outset, these elements have become important guideposts and points of interest that invite visitors to stroll across the campus.

About the architect

Thomas Schütte (born 1954 in Oldenburg, Germany) studied from 1973 to 1981 at the Academy of Art in Düsseldorf, where he lives and works today. Düsseldorf, Cologne and the Rhineland constituted the most vibrant region in Europe for art and artists during that decade. A focal point of the action was the Düsseldorf-based Konrad Fischer Galerie, which was frequented by such figures as Bruce Nauman. The gallery dedicated a solo exhibition to the young Schütte back in 1981, when the artist was still largely unknown. He achieved prominence in the early 1980s with his architectural models and objects, the first of which were shown at the ‘Westkunst’ exhibition in 1980. Parallel to the creation of such conceptual objects, Schütte had begun to develop a figurative sculptural oeuvre, which met with wide acclaim starting in the 1990s. Since that time, Thomas Schütte has successfully continued his creative activity in both areas. He has received numerous awards including the Golden Lion at the 2005 Venice Art Biennale. In recent years, his work has been the subject of major museum exhibitions.

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