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MERCEDES-BENZ FUTURE LAB & CAMPUS EXTENSION 3.0 (MBC 3.0)
Stuttgart, Germany

CLIENT Daimler AG
PROGRAM Campus expansion with Sculpture Garden, Central Plaza, 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 galleries, café, dialogue chamber, education spaces, laboratories, lecture hall, offices and workshops
AREA 10,200 m² (110,000 sf)
COST €125 million ($158 million) (project)
STATUS Invited competition 2012; first prize 2014; current scheme
DESIGN ARCHITECT REX
PERSONNEL Giannantonio Bongiorno, Adam Chizmar, Alberto Cumerlato, Mahasti Fakourbayat, Dominyka Mineikyte, Joshua Ramus, Ekkaphon Puekpaiboon, Ishtiaq Rafiuddin, Bogdan Rusu, Emma Silverblatt, Elina Spruza, Antariksh Tandon, Cristina Webb
EXECUTIVE ARCHITECT Wenzel + Wenzel
CONSULTANTS DS-Plan, Front, Halfkann Kirchner, Triad, Werner Sobek

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. Pulling the greenscape of the nearby Neckar Park in to meet the campus 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. 

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

Along the plaza’s perimeter, the Campus Drive connects the entries of the Mercedes-Benz Museum, Center, and Future Lab. The Future Lab’s foyer, café, and art gallery—with their transparent facades—spill outside and activate the newly formed plaza, Sculpture Garden, and Mobile Kids.


Site plan

Stuttgart’s Wissenhof-Siedling Housing and this Mercedes-Benz were both designed in 1927. Only the former remains an archetype. 

While the new campus design draws from the existing grounds and the surrounding city, the Future Lab’s inspirations are its subject, the company’s brand values, and its dialogue with the Museum. 

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.  
 

The Future Lab embodies the brand’s poles of “Purity and Sensuality” at every scale, from the precision of its double-glass façade softened by a sensuous, integrated sunshade, to its Platonic circular shape tempered by two lifting curves at its base. The building provokes visitors’ perceptions of the future as its contents are hidden and revealed by the sunshade’s dance of veils that follow the sun. 

In marked contrast with the adjacent, cloistered Mercedes-Benz Museum, the Future Lab is exposed, mysterious, and beckoning. This cantilevered, glimmering ring provokes visitors’ perceptions of the future as its contents are hidden and revealed by its curtain’s dance of veils.

The Future Lab’s ever-changing nature is experienced fully in its gallery space. A dynamic canvas, it is divided into three radically distinct architectures: the Near Future (Level 2) at the building’s top, where visitors can connect its content to the ‘immediacy’ of their surroundings; the Far Future (Level 1), an immersive environment that becomes the visitors’ last impression as they leave the building; and the Future Core, a dynamic cylinder that mediates between the two and pierces through their center. 

The Near Future is a massive, 60-meter-diameter (plateau with an average height of 7.5 meters. 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 Near Future enjoys ultimate flexibility.

Its full-height glass perimeter provides unbridled, panoramic views out over the campus and park, while its round, linear circulation interconnects its contents without hierarchy.


 

Near Future Plan

Near Future

By contrast, the Far Future is a 5-m-high, light-controlled, intimate cruciform. Its ceiling structure is exposed to support the use of mise-en-scène, art, and cultural productions for the exhibition of past and present visions of the future.

Its major axis has views—controlled by blackout shades—to the museum and park, while its minor axis terminates into the upper balcony of a lecture hall on one side, and the Future Garage—a paternoster of rotating research prototypes—on the other. The upper balcony can be screened off from the lecture hall’s stage and orchestra seating to be used as an independent video room in conjunction with the Far Future’s exhibitions. A retractable acoustic wall at the front of the video room transforms it into a gallery for watching activities in the Future Core. 

 The Far Future’s five-square matrix allows for curatorial scripting of its circulation through the combining or demising of its four “arms.”

Far Future Plan

 Far Future

Penetrating through the Near and Far Futures, the Future Core is a 12.5-meter-high, 20-meter-wide chamber for dialogue and contemplation. Its three reconfigurable components define a constantly changing stage for societal, technological, and systemic provocations. They include a theatrical ceiling grid on which new media technologies can be rigged or heavy objects suspended;…

…a two-part media screen that can lift partially or fully in myriad configurations to choreograph the dimension, character, and counterpoint of the surrounding galleries;…

 

…and a floor of concentric stage risers that offer multiple viewing arrangements. In the Future Core, the patron is a witness to—and an instigator in—the future’s creation.

North-South section with Media Screen down, partially lifted, and lifted

Future Core with Media Screen down, partially lifted, and lifted

In a building where flux is celebrated, a simple circulation strategy provides an anchor point of clarity. From the foyer on Level 0, visitors ascend via elevators to the top first, the Near Future on Level 2, then descend via stairs to the Far Future and Future Core on Level 1, and eventually back down to the foyer.


The Future Lab’s public orientation/circulation backbone is the high-rack storage tower of the Future Garage. Visible at all times within the building, its rotating display of prototypes 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.


Central Foyer with rotating Future Garage


Accessible from both the Campus Plaza and Mobile Kids, the Future Lab’s ground floor forms a grand axis connecting the foyer (info desk, coat room, and orientation area), the Future Garage (entry to the galleries above), a lecture hall, an art gallery, and a café. With use of retractable acoustic walls, the lecture hall and the art gallery can function as autonomous venues—both with access to the café—while the gallery can also serve as a dedicated foyer to the lecture hall when desired. For example, after the unveiling of a new car or during company-wide events, these walls can be lifted, transforming all five spaces into an immense urban room with a framed view out to the Sculpture Park.

The Future Lab’s ever-unfolding, transforming quality is echoed in its high-performance, double-skin façade. The façade combines maximum natural daylight and winter solar heat gain with high thermal insulation to reduce mechanical loads. Its two glazing layers, and the naturally aerated space between them, provide a flexible, intelligently controlled ventilation strategy, as well as sun shading and solar thermal collection shielded from the exterior environment…

The Future Lab’s crystalline transparency is enabled through the use of an undulating curtain in the façade’s cavity that wraps around the building’s perimeter. Calibrated to Stuttgart’s latitude, it transitions from near black-out sunshade on the building’s southern exposure to highly-transparent glare shade on its northern exposure. The curtain selectively deploys as the sun rotates, optimizing interior shading and solar energy collection on sunny days and minimizing glare on cloudy days. At choreographed moments, the curtain can be lifted entirely to expose the Future Lab’s vivid contents to the surrounding campus.

Overall, the Future Lab creates a recognizable brand epicenter where the potential and indeterminacy of the future unites with the classical, high-performance qualities expected of a Mercedes-Benz product. In doing so, it offers a destination visitors will be drawn to experience frequently, as the changing nature of both the building’s image and its contents have the power to continually surprise.

Image Credits: 1, 10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 28, 29: Luxigon

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