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MERCEDES-BENZ FUTURE LAB & CAMPUS EXTENSION 2.0 (MBC 2.0)
Stuttgart, Germany

CLIENT Daimler AG
PROGRAM Campus expansion with Amphitheater, Classic Center for showcasing legacy automobiles, Central Plaza, 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;  MBC 2.0 and MBC 2.1, succeeded by MBC 2.2
ARCHITECT REX
PERSONNEL Adam Chizmar (PL), Danny Duong, Mette Fast, Luis Gil, Alysen Hiller Fiore, Tyler Hopf, Gabriel Jewell-Vitale, Roberto Otero, Joshua Ramus, Ishtiaq Rafiuddin (PL), Aude Soffer, Minyoung Song, Elina Spruza (PL), Matthew Uselman, Cristina Webb, Matthew Zych
CONSULTANTS  Arup, Front, melk!, Theatre Projects

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). 

The current site plan suggests the possibility of a cohesive connection of the campus to its surroundings. Extending the gentle contours of the existing landscape and pulling in the greenscape of the nearby Neckar Park transforms the hardscape setting for these buildings into a fluid, park-like environment linked to the city.

Also 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. 

The Classic Center is the graceful connector that completes the original plan’s suggested form for the Campus Plaza, while the Future Lab rises in a new landscape that expands the contours of Museum Hill into a park-like setting, and extends Mercedes-Benz’s presence toward Neckar Park and across the Neckar River.

Along the plaza’s perimeter, the Campus Drive and a covered pedestrian walkway connect the entries of the Mercedes-Benz Museum, Center, Classic Center, Amphitheater, 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.

In addition to the Campus Plaza (1) and Amphitheater (2), the raised landform creates a tableau of three additional public atmospheres: the new Mercedes-Benz Sculpture Garden (3), the Mobile Kids driving school (4), and an informal, lyrical lawn (5).
 

Site Plan

As it explores such an indeterminate notion as the future, the Future Lab strives to be a timeless structure—immune to becoming out of fashion—while offering a platform for continuous flux. Hovering upon the new landscape, the building breaks from the new campus’ planning strategy of integration and extension to assert its individualism. In contrast to the cloistered, protective Mercedes-Benz Museum, the Future Lab is transparent and inviting. Softly glowing and ethereal by night, by day its shimmering glass enclosure captures the sunlight to continually alter its appearance. 

The three major functional groups of the Future Lab are stacked into layers. Level 0, connected to the Campus Plaza, includes the Foyer, White Cube, Milk Bar, and entrance to the Lecture Hall. On Level 1 and coplanar with the new landscape, the Create-the-Future cluster includes Workshop, Genius Workshops, Lab, and Lecture Hall with its own foyer and bar for special events. Levels 2 and 3—forming a single ‘layer’—present the Near Future and Far Future galleries of the Experience-the-Future hall. Offices line the perimeter of Level 2.

In a building where flux is celebrated, a simple circulation strategy provides an anchor point of clarity. From the Foyer, visitors ascend to the Experience-the-Future on the top levels via the Future Garage’s oversized lift, then descend to the Create-the-Future, and eventually the Foyer using the Future Garage’s perimeter ramps. This strategy also enables certain building components to be closed while maintaining others in operation.

NE-SW Longitudinal Section

Mercedes-Benz Future Lab

Level 3: 
Experience-the-Future/Near Future (Horizontal Plateau)

Level 2: 
Experience-the-Future/Far Future (Vertical Silos)

Level 1: 
Create-the-Future (Workshop, Genius, Lab, Lecture Hall)

As visitors arrive onto the Campus Plaza, their initial impression of Mercedes-Benz’s future is a surprise. A glimmering glass diamond—pure and sensual, timeless and inviting, mysterious and open—sits high upon the new Sculpture Garden, overlooking the plaza’s fountain and trees in a dramatic cantilever. The Future Lab appears in flux as if constantly reacting to the gravitational pull of the unknown. It injects the campus with the dynamism of the future.

From the Campus Plaza, the building’s dramatic cantilever announces the Future Lab’s Foyer.

Drawn into the Foyer by views of the light-filled Future Garage, visitors are met by a reception/ticket counter and cloak room. To the left is the White Cube art gallery and to the right are the Milk Bar and a direct entrance to the Lecture Hall. This configuration enables use of the White Cube, Milk Bar, and Lecture Hall for events independent of the Experience-the-Future and Create-the-Future.

Level 0 Plan

Past the Future Lab’s ticket counter and control point, visitors enter the lift at the core of the Future Garage. In this exciting ascent to Level 3, they are immersed in the future of Mercedes-Benz, surrounded by the Garage’s ten levels of research cars.

The Future Lab’s public orientation/circulation backbone is the Future Garage, the high-rack storage tower mentioned earlier. Visible at all times within the building, its revolving display draws visitors to the presence of the public elevators and grand stair clustering around it. The Future Garage also doubles as a service lift delivering vehicles and exhibits to the gallery levels above.

 

From the Experience-the-Future hall on Levels 3 and 2, visitors can take the slow ramp that spirals around the Future Garage down to the Create-the-Future hall on Level 1 and ultimately back down to the Foyer. 

To provide a dynamic canvas on which exhibition designers and curators can operate freely, the Experience-the-Future gallery space is divided into two distinct atmospheres whose architectures offer radically different spatial experiences. The Near Future on the Horizontal Plateau and the Far Future Silos are choreographed in counterpoint within these atmospheres by three movable, double-sided Media Screens.

One atmosphere is the 80 m x 80 m (260 ft x 260 ft) Horizontal Plateau with an average height of 7.5 m (24.5 ft). A luminous ceiling lights the Plateau uniformly and softly, creating the ideal setting for the display of vehicles and media-based exhibits. With only eight columns in the space, a floor that can support heavy loads, and an under-floor air supply system, the Horizontal Plateau enjoys ultimate flexibility. Its shape enables curatorial variety as a single, linear course around its perimeter or as four distinct quadrants, and manifold combinations and permutations of the two.

Level 3 Plan

Three Vertical Silos penetrating the Horizontal Plateau to a height of 12.5 m (40 ft) compose the other atmosphere. The Silos land on Level 2 in a large, round room forming a continuous spatial ensemble. Providing societal, technological, and systemic provocations, the Vertical Silos are conceived as stages supporting the use of mise-en-scène, art, and cultural productions. They include a theatrical ceiling grid on which new media technologies can be rigged or heavy objects suspended.

Wrapping around the perimeter of each Silo, circular ramps provide diverse vantage points of that stage’s production. Connecting the Horizontal Plateau on Level 3 to the Vertical Silos’ base on Level 2, these ramps encourage visitors to break and challenge the exhibition sequence curated on the Horizontal Plateau above.

Level 2 Plan

Within these contrasting atmospheres, three Media Screens manage the simultaneous interplay between the Near Future and Far Future without restricting free movement from one to the other. The Media Screens can move to form radically different configurations, including their complete retraction into the roof.

Movement or retraction of the screens create transgressive ‘future moments’—unexpected disruptions when the visions of the Far Future bleed into and challenge the innovations presented in the Near Future—that culminate the spirit of the Future Lab for the visitor.

From Level 3, visitors descend to the galleries on Level 2 along the Silos’ ramps. The views up into the Silos engage their imagination with artifacts suspended against a backdrop of the animated Media Screens above. It is a world unto its own, a world of performance, research, and beauty, the future of Mercedes-Benz.

As visitors descend from Level 2 down the Future Garage ramp to the Create-the-Future on Level 1, they transition from receiving information to actively participating in the instigation of ideas. Whereas the Experience-the-Future is literally and metaphorically ‘elevated’ to project the potential and indeterminacy of the future, the Create-the-Future is ‘grounded’ upon the new landscape, such that visitors relate and apply the insights gained above to their everyday world outside. 

Level 1 Plan

Upon entering the Create-the-Future, visitors are greeted by its four unique pavilions: Workshop (a ‘marketplace for ideas’), Genius Workshops (a kid’s
Waldorf-education environment), Lab (an incubator for vehicle prototypes), and Lecture Hall.

A grand ramp connects the Create-the-Future directly down to the Foyer, affording them both independence from the Experience-the-Future hall. 

Past the Foyer’s White Cube gallery, patrons see the exclusive Club Lounge overlooking the Classic Collection: Mercedes-Benz’s prized array of its most exceptional cars.

The Future Lab’s glass façades aspire to be innovative, sublime, and timeless. Straight at their edges and bowing inward as the space between their mullions tighten towards the center, the facades form four crystalline vortexes with warped reflections. Light gliding upon their transparent skin highlights these dynamic curves, giving the entire building a continuously changing quality. Embodying Mercedes-Benz’s motto—the best or nothing—the Future Lab’s facades’ ever-unfolding and transforming beauty is paralleled by their high performance and innovative technology.

In addition to giving the Future Lab its shimmering transparency, these double-skinned window-walls (as well as the roof, discussed later) are also some of the building’s most notable sustainable features. 

Each facade’s two glazing layers, the naturally-ventilated cavity between them, and protected glare-control and sun shades, combine into a strategy that significantly reduces the Future Lab’s mechanical and electrical loads. The external glazing layer is comprised of cold-formed, double-curved, laminated, low-iron glass panels that are pre-bonded to extruded aluminum glazing cassettes and mechanically fastened to horizontal, structural steel ‘T’ mullions. The internal glazing layer is composed of triple-glazed units with argon gas fillings and two triple-silver, low-e coatings. A base-supported, mullion-less framing system with movement loads accounted for at the head, enables the units to span floor-to-floor. The aggregate window-wall U-value is 0.70 W/m2K…    

Detail at base

…with a high SHGC of 0.50 for solar heat gains in winter.

The double-skin/air cavity system is a highly insulated barrier that mitigates the fluctuations of external temperatures. In addition, the air cavity creates a chimney stack effect which allows natural and mixed-mode ventilation, as well as heat recovery or discharge. Intake and exhaust vents at the base and head of the wall, respectively, draw fresh air into the building’s raised floor plenums, and suck used air back into the cavity via ceiling plenums. 

Detail at slab

The used, hot air is either purged to the exterior during summertime or its heat recovered during wintertime. In tandem, high-performance sunshades in the cavity block sunlight and collect its heat inside the cavity to also be rejected or recovered. When the sunshades are lifted, natural daylight reaches deep into the building, reducing electrical loads and warming up the structure’s concrete floors for passive heating when desired.
 

Detail at roof edge

The glare-control and sun shades are programmed to track the sun’s rotation. The dance of their deployment and retraction provokes visitor’s perception of the future as the Future Lab’s contents are masked and revealed throughout the day. At choreographed moments, the sunshades can also be deployed for complete blackout or entirely raised to expose the Future Center’s vivid contents to the surrounding Mercedes-Benz Campus.

On the office facades of Level 2, a brise-soleil of vertical hydro-thermal tubes on the southern half provides 650 MWh/yr of solar heating. The tubes’ geometry is repeated on the northern half to provide glare control and aesthetic continuity.
 

Daylight penetrating the small gaps between the silver solar cells filters through the nanogel, the roof’s structure, and finally a laylight layer of translucent glass…

…to create a naturally luminous ceiling in the Experience-the-Future’s Horizontal Plateau.

This innovative combination of new technologies saves and produces energy, while offering a unique, glare-free lighting experience. The ceiling cavity between the IGU and laylight layers serves as a heat recovery plenum drawing warm air from the Horizontal Plateau and double skin/air cavity facade across the ceiling to be returned through ducts integrated within the primary structure’s eight columns.

Overall, the Future Lab creates a recognizable brand epicenter that combines the potential and indeterminacy of the future with the classical, high performance qualities everyone expects of a Mercedes-Benz product. As the changing nature of both the building’s image and its contents have the power to continually surprise, the Future Lab offers a destination visitors will be drawn to experience frequently. A catalyst for debate and progress, the Future Lab is not only a tool for charting the course of the brand’s future, but sets the new Mercedes-Benz campus as a center where technological innovations can trigger societal change. 

Image Credits: 1, 9, 14, 16, 26, 28, 31, 38, 41, 42: Luxigon

 

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