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MERCEDES-BENZ FUTURE LAB & CAMPUS EXTENSION 1.0 (MBC 1.0)
Stuttgart, Germany

CLIENT Daimler AG
PROGRAM Campus expansion with Amphitheater, Central Plaza, Classic Center for showcasing legacy automobiles, Sculpture Garden, and Future Lab: a museum for the brand’s impact on state-of-the-art mobility and a factory for creating, debating, and presenting the indeterminate future; including exhibition space for showcasing research and development activities, and (A-Z) art gallery, café, club lounge, education spaces, laboratories, lecture hall, offices, and workshops
AREA 33,500 m² (361,000 sf)
COST Confidential
STATUS Invited competition 2012; first prize 2014; succeeded by MBC 2.0
ARCHITECT REX
PERSONNEL Lina Bondarenko, Adam Chizmar (PL), Danny Duong, Luis Gil, Alysen Hiller Fiore, Gabriel Jewell-Vitale (PL), Alex Middleton, Judith Mussel, Roberto Otero (PL), Se Yoon Park, Joshua Ramus, Michael Smith, Minyoung Song, Elina Spruza, Cristina Webb, Matthew Zych
CONSULTANTS  Arup, Front, Theatre Projects Consultants

On May 19, 2006, Mercedes-Benz celebrated the opening of the Mercedes-Benz Museum and Center in Stuttgart, a significant milestone in the company’s role as a design catalyst and innovation leader, and an expression of the brand’s public culture as exclusive yet approachable.

Along with Mercedes-Benz’s Untertürkheim Headquarters and Plant, this assemblage of buildings also provides a framework for a potential larger-scale Mercedes-Benz campus that can demonstrate the brand’s innovations, the processes by which they emerge, and their societal influence throughout time.

To fulfill this potential and construct a coherent narrative about the brand’s impact on state-of-the-art mobility, the Mercedes-Benz Future Lab is added to the constellation. Part exhibition hall and part factory for creating, debating, and presenting the indeterminate future, the Future Lab exposes the future’s possibilities in vivid presentations. Its addition completes a nucleus for the brand’s past (Museum), present (Center), and future (Lab). 

Latent within the existing plan is the concept of a campus heart. The curving façade of the existing stone plinth linking the Museum and Center is now extended to form a large oval that delineates a new Campus Plaza into a central landmark: a public event space and a ceremonial parade ground for vehicles. 

Along the plaza’s perimeter, the Campus Drive and a covered pedestrian walkway connect the entries of the Mercedes-Benz Museum, Center, Classic Center, and Future Lab. The Future Lab’s Foyer, Milk Bar, and White Cube, and the visible areas of the Classic Center—with their transparent facades—spill outside and activate the newly formed plaza.

Blending the campus with its context, the rectangular forms of Neckar Park’s sports fields and the organic shapes of the existing stone plinth are drawn onto the new landscape from the northwest and southeast, respectively.  

In addition to the Campus Plaza, the raised landform creates a tableau of three more public atmospheres: the new Mercedes-Benz Sculpture Garden (1), a 2000-person Amphitheater (2), and the Mobile Kids driving school (3).
 

Mercedes-Benz Campus

Just as the campus’ exterior brand identity is completed by extending Museum Hill,…

…its interior identity is completed by extending the program below to form the Classic Sections—Retail Classic Center, Classic Collections, and Club Lounge. The architecture of this area prioritizes simplicity, functionality, and cohesion, maintaining a quiet presence in subservience to the more iconic buildings on the campus.

 

Situated between the Club Lounge and Milk Bar, the prestigious Classic Collections form a connective tissue between the Future Lab and the Retail Classic Center that can be observed from all sides, though not publicly accessed. The lyrical skylights in the existing stone plinth are repeated over these areas in a grid to provide requisite daylight.

As the third of three edifices representing Mercedes-Benz’s past, present, and future, the Future Lab breaks from the new campus’ strategy of cohesion and respectfully asserts its individuality. To command its significant place within the campus’ physical and cultural landscape, the Future Lab forges its iconography from innovative building performance, not signature form. Recognizing the inadequacy of representational architecture when the subject is the speculative future, the Future Lab aspires to be innovative, not to look innovative.

Upholding the best practices of sustainability, where adaptive reuse informs a project’s earliest conceptualization, the Future Lab’s signature performance equips the building’s organization, its enclosure, and its galleries for the indeterminacy of the future. While composed of tangible materials that resist gravity and collaborate with the elements, the Future Lab is a malleable strategy, not a fixed design

Future Lab entrance from Campus Plaza

Working from the given program, the Future Lab’s malleable strategy starts with delineating the Experience-the-Future from the Create-the-Future, placing the former on the second level, then…

 

…organizing the Create-the-Future into distinct program clusters,…

…tailoring each cluster’s structure, services, circulation, flexibility, and materiality; and…

…zoning the open space by cluster.

On the second level, the Far Future galleries are combined into an übergallery or Gallery Machine,…

…while the Near Future program is subdivided into a variety of galleries,…

…that are configured according to the cluster design below.

The galleries and clusters are combined into five pavilions.

The two-story pavilions are constructed of lightweight, sustainable, and easily recycled materials, and engineered with structures and building systems designed for their modification and removal. Each pavilion—and the Future Lab as a whole—can be re-imagined, extended, and even replaced over time to meet the changing needs of Mercedes-Benz without detriment to the building’s conceptual integrity.

To emphasize the Future Center’s authenticity as a tool for innovation, its façade is composed of a thin, high-performance glass wrapper that renders present its diverse pavilions and encourages their interaction with the campus.

The enclosure’s structural autonomy and its panelization on a 2.5 m grid facilitates its adoption of future technologies, its adaptation to future programmatic needs, and its disassembly at the end of the building’s useful life.

 

In critique of the banal and operationally-costly ‘white box as tableau,’ the Future Lab’s galleries are divided into an array of five distinct typologies that offer a spectrum of flexibility, ranging from highly pre-configured (the Near Future) to radically reconfigurable (the Far Future). While an exhibition space with a single gallery type requires great intellectual and monetary expense to transform itself, the Future Lab’s array of galleries can accommodate manifold curatorial visions and can be reconfigured with minimal additional cost.

Level 1: Create-the-Future

Level 2: Experience-the-Future

Upon entering the Future Lab, the Create-the-Future’s functions are ordered on the arrival level into clusters of programs with the most specific and divergent needs: Laboratory, Lecture Hall, White Cube, and Genius Workshops. Their distinct programmatic requirements are accommodated by tailored architectural responses within their individual pavilions. These clusters are all individually accessed from a central Foyer and Workshop pavilion to form a hive where urban intensity prevails and functions can be used after hours.

The second floor of the pavilions speculates about the Near and Far Future, topics demanding diversity more than specificity. The Experience-the-Future is a vast Future Plateau spatially defined by the unique architectural solutions of the lower level. Conveyor of its subject’s indeterminacy, the Experience-the-Future presents a simple repertoire of distinctive architectures which can house any number of themes or preoccupations, either individually or collectively.

To provide the preconfigured canvas on which curators can operate, the Near Future galleries are divided into four curatorial atmospheres pinwheeling around the Far Future. Each Near Future gallery harbors its own circulation, intimacy, flexibility, and materiality inspired by the Create-the-Future architecture below: Cruciform Gallery (Laboratory below), Rice Paddy Gallery (Lecture Hall below), Block Gallery (White Cube below) and Dr. Caligari Gallery (Genius Workshops below). At all times, each gallery and its unique circulatory procession can be accessed via a linear, additive pathway at the perimeter of the Future Gallery.

Near Future Cruciform Gallery

 

 

Near Future Rice Paddy Gallery

 

Near Future Block Gallery

Near Future Dr. Caligari Gallery

 

 

The Future Lab condenses the Far Future galleries into a radically reconfigurable übergallery, or Gallery Machine, that prioritizes the hand of the curator over the hand of the architect.

Inspired by existing innovative theaters, the Future Lab’s Gallery Machine supports the use of mise-en-scène, art, and cultural productions to suspend the visitor’s disbelief, immersing them within ever-changing, utopian visions of mobility. 

 

Recognizing that the distant future cannot be adequately represented by a definitive number of galleries, the Gallery Machine is composed of nine movable platforms… 

 

 

…that can orchestrate an infinite number of configurations, dimensions, and pathways.

In combination with the predetermined internal pathways of the four Near Future galleries, the Gallery Machine empowers the curator to not only determine the quantity and figure of pathways inside the Gallery Machine, but the intuitive short-circuits possible amongst the Near Future galleries. The curator is thereby capable of creating a potent counterpoint between the innovation of the Near Future and the vision of the Far Future, where the Far Future acts as a disruptor that opens unexpected possibilities.

The movable platforms are automated by Gala Spiralifts: coiled, flexible, flat steel springs that expand vertically with the insertion of a thin spiral steel band to create fully rigid columns ‘out of thin air.’ The lifts add the unusual z-axis to the curator’s repertoire, facilitating the use of topography as a curatorial device and the inclusion of oversized objects.

Click here to see a demo video of the Gala Spiralifts

 

 

Curatorial freedom of the movable platforms is supported by two movable stair towers and two movable elevator towers, all on air casters for easy and convenient repositioning around the Gallery Machine. The towers provide universal access and fire egress to any portions of the Gallery Machine not co-planar with the upper level; exhibit specific ramps can be built in-situ for further sectional variation. 

 

 

The nine movable platforms, supported by the two movable stair towers and two movable elevator towers,…

…result in 36 possible locations for accessing the Gallery Machine.

The combination of the Near Future’s pre-confiiguration and the Far Future’s re-configurability creates an innovative curatorial plateau. 

 

The Future Lab’s modular space frame exposed over the Gallery Machine becomes the grid from which to suspend content and mise-en-scène, while integrated, horizontal shade and black out blinds in the glass roof make daylight another curatorial tool.

 

Central Foyer and Workshop below movable platforms

 

 

The Future Lab’s naturally-ventilated, pressurized facade is an innovative system which enables the pavilion’s enclosure to remain thin while providing exemplary environmental performance. The facade incorporates triple glazed units with inert gas filling, composite stainless steel and polymer spacers, a laminated pane to the outside separated from the inner IGU by an active pressurized air gap to protect solar and blackout shades from the exterior environment. A natural air intake vent at the stack joint is provided to enable mixed mode and natural ventilation, reducing electrical loads.

The Future Lab’s highly transparent enclosure as seen from Neckar Park and Mercedesstraße

The Future Lab creates a recognizable brand epicenter where the potential and indeterminacy of the future unite with the classical high-performance qualities expected of a Mercedes-Benz product.

Image Credits: 1, 8, 11, 13, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 41, 42, 45: Luxigon

 

 

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