The New Mercedes-Benz Museum:
NEWS ON RADIO
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14th May, 2006
The only museum in the world able to present the 120-year history of the automotive industry from day one will open its doors on Thursday 18th May, 2006 in Stuttgart. In doing so, the inventor of the automobile has also reinvented the motor museum: the New Mercedes-Benz Museum. Within a construction time of only two and a half years, from September 2003 to April 2006, an architectural highlight has been developed which constitutes a remarkable design feature for the Stuttgart region. The display concept is likewise unique: 160 vehicles and more than 1,500 other exhibits are presented to visitors on two connected tour routes occupying an area of 16,500 square metres on nine levels. The Museum’s physical proximity to the main Mercedes-Benz plant in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim provides the link between tradition and the present day: the Museum shows that automotive history has always been forward-looking, based on the innovative strength of the Mercedes-Benz brand.
The new Museum not only exhibits the history of the Mercedes-Benz brand, but also affords a look into the future. This dual function is also reflected in the architecture, which was designed in the "UN studio" of the world-famous Dutch architects Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos. The striking modernity of the design appears to have come from the future – and yet preserves the tradition of the brand. The architecture illustrates the genetic make-up of the brand. The interior of the building is modelled on the double-helix structure of the DNA spiral which carries the human genes. This in turn illustrates the original philosophy of the Mercedes-Benz brand, namely the continuous invention of completely new things to maintain personal mobility – from the invention of the automobile to the future-oriented vision of accident–free driving.
Unique museum concept
The display concept developed and realised by the consultancy HG Merz is also highly original. During their (at least) 2-hour tour of the Museum, visitors experience the 120-year history of the automobile as a journey through time. A lift takes them to the uppermost level of the Museum, from where two sweeping tour routes spiral down through nine levels to the starting point as a double-helix metaphorically representing the genetic make-up of the brand. Along the first tour route there are seven "Legend rooms" which relate the story of the brand in chronological order. The second tour route groups the enormous display of vehicles into five separate "Collection rooms" which present the huge variety of the brand portfolio over time. As a completely new feature, the new Museum also documents the more than 100-year commercial vehicle history of the company.
A look at the working day of the engineers
Visitors are able to switch between the two tour routes at any time. Both end at the banked curve - "Silver Arrows – Races and Records" – where the Mercedes legend is experienced at first hand. This display is supplemented with "The Fascination of Technology" exhibition, which provides a look at the day-to-day work of the engineers and affords a glimpse into the future of the automobile. This detailed picture of the Mercedes-Benz brand consists of more than 1,500 exhibits, of which 160 are vehicle exhibits. According to Max-Gerrit von Pein, the Chief Executive of Mercedes-Benz Museum GmbH and Director of DaimlerChrysler Heritage, "The Mercedes-Benz Museum is a unique location where the history of the automobile and the aura surrounding the Mercedes-Benz brand from the early days to the present can best be experienced in a completely new and exciting way".
Brand history grouped into topics areas and historical eras
The Legend rooms tell the story of the Mercedes-Benz brand by way of topic areas and historical eras. Accordingly, the areas are in chronological order, with the exhibits placed in their historical context.
The Collection rooms show the enormous variety of Mercedes-Benz vehicles according to topic areas. Here the visitor can view exhibits such as a perfectly normal Mercedes-Benz O 305 regular-service bus, the famous "Millipede" – the LP 333 heavy truck, an LF 3500 fire-fighting vehicle with a turntable ladder or the "Popemobile" used by Pope John Paul II. Vehicles which have a history of their own and in some cases also helped to write history.
"The Fascination of Technology", which is freely accessible as a self-contained exhibition, occupies a special position. Exhibits in highly sophisticated contextual surroundings provide a look at the day-to-day work of Mercedes-Benz engineers and developers, and therefore at the future of the automobile. A café, a restaurant and various shops round off the facilities available to visitors. A direct physical link with the showroom in the Mercedes-Benz Centre provides a seamless transition of the Mercedes legend from the classic models to the current product range.
On the basis of a symmetrical, three-leafed ground plan, UN studio developed a building geometry whose interior layout is intentionally reminiscent of the solutions used in roadbuilding: the clover leaf-like architecture of the new building corresponds to the layout of the nearby junction between the B14 and B10 federal highways. More than 110,000 tonnes of concrete were used for the Mercedes-Benz Museum, which covers a ground area of 4,800 square metres and reaches a height of 47.5 metres to enclose a space measuring 210,000 cubic metres.
The complex geometrical structures of the Museum could only be realised by using the latest technologies. From the first drafts to completion, the building plan was based on a three-dimensional data model which was updated no less than 50 times during the construction phase and produced a total of 35,000 working plans. Special architectural features include 33-metre wide, unpillared spaces capable of taking the weight of ten trucks and the so-called "twists" – recurved structural elements reminiscent of oversized aircraft propellers which were used for the very first time in this size and shape. Some 1,800 triangular panes of glass – no two of them are identical – were used for the external windows. All the materials, from the aluminium panels of the outer skin and windows to the dark-coloured parquet flooring of the ramps, combine the very highest quality with an unimposing appearance.
The brand experience begins in the underground car park
Visitors are welcomed by an attractive automotive overture before even entering the new Museum. Cleverly illuminated Mercedes-Benz cars from the previous model generation are arranged in the underground car park at the rear of the artificial mound on which the Museum stands. "These 'recent classic cars' on the parking deck are the Museum’s reception committee. They are interspersed between the parked cars of visitors, but highlighted by being parked in a glass showcase", as HG Merz describes the idea. An escalator takes visitors from the underground car park to the lobby area.
In the lobby an open-plan staircase allows even larger groups to muster and prepare for their visit. Passing an information booth in which 16 plasma screens are suspended in a ring, visitors first reach the atrium, where they are treated to the first breathtaking view. Three lifts are available to waft visitors gently up the 42-metre high atrium while they are given a film preview of what awaits them in the Museum. On arriving at the top they are met by a very evocative acoustic signal, namely the whinny of a horse. The visitors have taken a journey back in time, and have arrived in the period before the first cars were invented.
Legend and Collection: the dual layout principle
The seven Legend rooms, which guide visitors through the history of the automobile and its times in chronological order, are linked by an around 80-metre long, smooth ramp. This is designed to be equally convenient for the handicapped, with numerous imperceptible transitions to level sections so that wheelchair users are safely and comfortably conducted through the building. With the exception of the first and last, which are devoted to the invention of the automobile and motor racing history, all the Legend rooms are laid out on the same principles: along the outside of a curved, clover-leaf wall, the ramp sweeps down to the vehicle display in its historical context. While the visitor is already able to see down to the exhibits, a chronological table on the left wall illustrates events in corporate history in the light of their historical period. This gallery shows the background against which epoch-making innovations in automobile engineering were made.
Each Legend room portrays a particular era by means of a central scene: from the invention of the independent, petrol-driven road vehicle to the origin of the Mercedes brand, and from the development of the supercharger and diesel engine, the gullwing models and semi-forward control trucks of the 1950s, the increasing importance of safety and environmental protection, and the global presence of the brand to the general subject of the racing and record-breaking cars in the last Legend room, where this tour route comes to an end.
Arranged according to type of operation
"In contrast to the chronologically structured Legend rooms, the Collection rooms are arranged according to the type of operation", is how HG Merz describes the function of the second tour. "With their wide range of exhibits they reflect the experience, expertise and perfection contained in the entire range of automotive products." The generously laid-out Collection rooms have the space to accommodate a large number of exhibits illustrating the entire history of the relevant topic. These topics range from travel by bus, taxi and passenger car to goods transport and distribution, from the "Gallery of Helpers" in firefighting, the emergency services and municipal operations to VIP cars and finally the "Gallery of Heroes" – the countless number of highly effective vehicles which have gone and continue to go about their day-to-day duties almost unnoticed in every country of the world. These include the Unimog and the Mercedes-Benz 240 D, for example. Discreet floor graphics reminiscent of road markings indicate the topic of each Collection and the direction to be taken through the vehicle layout. In the "Gallery of Travel", for example, the exhibits are positioned along all four arrowed points of a compass. In the "Gallery of Loads", however, they are arranged in parallel as if on a road. The vehicles in the "Gallery of Helpers" are all oriented towards a central area of activity in the centre of the space, while the "Gallery of Names" is presented on high-quality wooden plinths. The "Gallery of Heroes" is made to resemble a road with angled parking bays.
A glass showcase which can be viewed from both sides is located by the ramp leading from the Legend tour to one of the Collection rooms. On the outside this displays model vehicles, and on the inside smaller exhibits such as vehicle components, accessories and advertising gifts. A "micro-cinema" also shows films reflecting the topic of the relevant Collection room.
In addition to the area-specific exhibits, 33 further objects, some of which offer surprising insights, are displayed throughout all the Legend and Collection rooms. "The '33 Extras' are original items. They were once components of a vehicle (a wing or microchip), they may be an item of driver’s equipment (leather clothing or a driving licence), or they may otherwise be associated with the car and its culture (a penalty notice or a caricature of a driver)", says Merz, explaining the concept. They invite contemplation, raise a smile or provide informative details about unknown aspects of automotive history.
Emotional finale at the banked curve
Both the Legend and Collection tours end up at "Races and Records", where a steeply banked curve which takes up practically all the space becomes a vertical, cylindrical wall studded with famous, record-breaking cars. "Races and Records is the emotional finale to a tour of the Museum", says HG Merz.
When entering this area, visitors are able to take a comfortable seat on a grandstand opposite the banked curve, either to savour the impressive overall image for a while or view film extracts from historic motor races shown on six different monitors. The grandstand is connected to a passageway behind the banked curve which opens out into a "racing tunnel" leading to the Legend room devoted to "Races and Records". Original mementos of famous racing drivers, two simulators and a "racing workshop" then offer visitors a further opportunity to immerse themselves in the fascinating world of motorsport.
Famous cars fixed to a vertical wall
The banked curve gradually becomes a vertical wall to which famous record-breaking cars are affixed: the selection ranges from the three-axle T 80 and the record-breaking twelve-cylinder W 125 of 1938 to the record-breaking diesel C 111 III of 1978 and the 190 E 2.3-16 of 1983, plus the very recent E 320 CDI, which covered a distance of 100,000 miles at an average speed of 224 km/h in Laredo, Texas in 2005. The two final exhibits show that speed is not everything, however: the so-called "Sparmobil" (= Savermobile) managed to cover a nominal 1,028 kilometres on just one litre of diesel fuel, while no conventional fuel at all was required by the solar-powered Solarmobile which won the Tour de Sol run from Lake Constance to Lake Geneva in the mid-1980s.
In the middle of this cylindrical display showing the record-breakers, five platforms resembling the valves of an engine project from the lower level of the transitional structure to present both historic and current research vehicles. These exhibits link the Museum tour with the "Fascinating Technology" display area, which has a length of 80 metres and illustrates the present state of development. From here the visitor is guided through the Passage to the Mercedes-Benz Centre Stuttgart, where the current vehicle range can be seen.
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