May 6, 2006 On May 19, 2006, the new Mercedes-Benz Museum will open its doors to the public putting another “must-see” on the map of the automobile enthusiast. This new building at the gates of the parent plant in Stuttgart-Unterturkheim (Germany) is far more than a home to 120 years of automotive history. The museum was created in a very similar process to that of a new car series. First it was conceived and rough-sketched in the mind and with computer assistance. All parties involved entered unknown territory with the concept. Prototypes of the structure were designed, some even full-scale, to test the feasibility of the idea. As everything gradually neared completion, an intensive test run was conducted to put the entire museum to the acid test. Now the new model is ready. It stands for the brand and its values and is intended to display the permanent innovative spirit of the Mercedes-Benz culture which professes that innovations are the milestones on the way to the future.
The proximity to the parent plant is intentional, for this is one of the cradles of the automotive industry. Early Mercedes vehicles were created here; this was the site of headquarters following the merger of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft with Benz & Cie. to form Daimler-Benz AG in 1926; and it is headquarters again today. For this reason the Museum not only presents the history of the Mercedes-Benz brand, but also affords a revealing look at the future. The architecture, created by UN studio’s Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos, also serves this function. Its modernity seems to place it as coming from the future, and yet it preserves tradition. It contains the “genetic makeup” of the brand – the interior of the building is modeled after the double DNA helix that contains the human genetic plan.
From its origins as a collection of technical objects for Benz and Daimler in the late 19th century to the first “proper” museum, opened in 1936; from the reconstruction in 1961 to the comprehensive redesign of the exhibition for the “100 Years of the Automobile” anniversary in 1986: it has always been a mirror of the brand into which customers, employees and the public could take a deep look. The new Museum carries on this tradition.
Architectonic masterpiece and a most ambitious undertaking
In just two-and-one-half years’ construction time from September 2003 to April 2006, the world’s most progressive automotive museum has emerged. With this architectonic highlight DaimlerChrysler not only sets architectural standards, but a remarkable trend in city planning too. On nine levels, 160 vehicles are shown on 16,500 square meters of floor space.
Starting from a symmetric, trefoil ground plan, UN studio developed the intricate geometry of the building, whose interior walkways recall solutions applied to highway construction – for good reason: the cloverleaf-like architecture of the new structure corresponds to the nearby junction of the B14 and B10 highways and creates a “transportation link” of a figurative nature.
The complex geometries of the Museum could only be implemented using the latest technologies. From draft to realization, serving as basis of planning was a three-dimensional data model which was updated 50 times in the course of construction and generated a total of 35,000 building plans. The architectonic features include 33-meter-wide rooms without pillars, capable of bearing the load of ten trucks, and doubly arched load-bearing elements, so-called twists, used in this shape and size for the first time; 1,800 triangular panes, no two of which are exactly alike, are fitted in the window bands. All materials, from the aluminum panels and window bands of the outer skin to the dark parquet of the ramps, combine highest quality with unobtrusiveness.
On their way through the Museum, visitors travel through 120 years of automotive history. An elevator takes them to the highest level of the Museum. From there two paths take them in wide sweeps through the substantial collection; both form a double helix which, in a manner of speaking, embodies the brand’s genes – as DNA does the human genetic constitution. The Legend tour follows the history of the brand chronologically from the invention of the automobile through today. On the second tour, five large Collection halls emphasize more timeless aspects. The visitor can move back and forth between the different spheres. For the first time the Museum now also presents the 100-year-plus history of the Company’s commercial vehicles. Both tours terminate in the steep-bank curve of the room “Silver Arrows – Races and Records” where the legendary brand can be experienced at its purest. From there visitors are taken through “The Fascination of Technology” on to the new Mercedes-Benz sales and service outlet.
The Legend rooms tell the story of the Mercedes-Benz brand, structuring it according to themes and eras. The rooms are chronologically arranged and the exhibition is dramatically staged – entirely under artificial light.
Legend 1: Pioneers – The Invention of the Automobile, 1886 - 1900 Legend 2: Mercedes – Birth of the Brand, 1900 - 1914 Legend 3: Pacemakers – Diesel and Supercharger, 1914 - 1945 Legend 4: Post-war Miracle – Form and Diversity, 1945 - 1960 Legend 5: Visionaries – Safety and the Environment, 1960 - 1982 Legend 6: Moving the World – Global and Individual, from 1982 Legend 7: Silver Arrows – Races and Records
The Collection rooms show the abundance and variety of the brand’s vehicles, arranged thematically. Here one discovers exhibits like a conventional Mercedes-Benz O 305 regular-service bus, or the famed “millipede” – the LP 333 heavy-duty truck, or an LF 3500 fire truck with turntable ladder, or the “Popemobile” of Pope John Paul II – vehicles which have a history and occasionally have made history.
Collection 1: Gallery of Voyagers Collection 2: Gallery of Carriers Collection 3: Gallery of Helpers Collection 4: Gallery of Celebrities Collection 5: Gallery of Heroes
A special role falls to “The Fascination of Technology” section on the lowest level. It is not a part of the Museum tour but freely accessible as a self-contained exhibition. In lavish scenes and settings it permits looking over the shoulders of the Mercedes-Benz designers and engineers in their everyday work and so previews the future of the automobile.