Mercedes-Benz Museum

Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, Germany
UN Studio

UN Studio cross-fertilizes a three-leaf-clover plan with a double-helix circulation for theMercedes-benz museum in Stuttgart.

By Suzanne Stephens

Photo © Duccio Malagamba

Frank Lloyd Wright probably would have given his porkpie hat to get the commission to design the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart—if he had lived so long. And he might have been impressed (even if grudgingly so) to see how a young Dutch firm, UN Studio, evolved a stunning spiral-ramped, reinforced-concrete building for the auto company. Granted, Wright generated his own historic concrete-ramp structure for displaying art with his Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan in 1959. There he realized a spiral-ramp parti he had also developed for cars—in the form of parking structures dating back to 1924–25. But Wright’s only chance to adapt that parti for the display of automobiles came with his 1955 Jaguar showroom at 430 Park Avenue in New York City. Now, belonging to Mercedes-Benz, it contains only a smidgen of his original idea.

Going beyond Wright, the nine-story Mercedes museum—designed by Ben van Berkel, an architect, working with his partner, Caroline Bos, trained as an art historian, and their Amsterdam-based office—is composed of two spiraling ramps in the form of a double helix that mimics DNA’s genetic strands. With clear spans of 100 feet that can display high-tonnage trucks and cars, the wide ramps loop, incline, merge, and meld as interchangeable surfaces, so that floors become walls, and walls become ceilings.

Many technical developments have emerged in the years between Wright’s experiments and the competition-winning scheme for the newly opened Mercedes-Benz Museum. These advances enabled the UN Studio team, which included both engineer Werner Sobek and a computer consultant on geometry, Arnold Walz, to develop a 270,000-square-foot, reinforced-concrete structure far more complex than the Guggenheim, and seven times larger.

In Germany, the Mercedes museum occupies a 37,674-square- foot site in an automotive enclave called Mercedes–Benz World near the parent company DaimlerChrysler’s Stuttgart-Untertürkheim plant. Next door is the new Mercedes-Benz Center, a square, three-story building pierced by skylights, where the sleek, elegant cars are sold. A 330-foot-long passage under a concrete podium, lined with shops and a restaurant, links the center to the museum.

the People

Daimler Chrysler Immobilien (DCI)GmbH

Architect’s firm name:
UN Studio
+31 (0)20 570 2040

Personnel in architect’s firm who should receive special credit:
Ben van Berkel, Caroline Bos and Tobias Walliser, design architects; marco Hemmerling, Hannes Pfau, Wouter de Jonge, Arjan Dingste, Gotz Peter Feldmann, Bjorn Rimner, Sebastian Schaeffer, Andreas Bogenschuetz, Uli Horner, Ivonne Schickler, Dennis Ruarus, Erwin Horstmanshof, Derrick Diporedjo, Nanang Santoso, Robert Brixner, Alexander Jung, Matthew Johnston, Rombout Loman, Arjan van der Bliek, Fabian Evers, Nuno Almeida, Ger Gijzen, Tjago Nunes, Boudewijn Rosman, Ergian Alberg, Gregor Kahlau, Mike Herud, Thomas Klein, Simon Streit, Taehoon Oh, Jenny Weiss, Philipp Dury, Carin Lamm, Anna Carlquist, Jan Debelius, Daniel Kalani, Evert Klinkenberg, design team

Associate architects:
Wenzel + Wenzel, Stuttgart: Matias Wenzel, Markus Schwarz, Clemens Schulte-Mattler, Ina Karbon, project architects; Nicola Kuhnle, Florian Erhard, Michael Fischinger, Christoph Friedrich, Peter Holzer, Christopf Krinn, Stefan Linder, Simon Schneider, Walter Ulrich, Gabriele Volker, Thomas Koch, Ulrike Kolb, Bendix Pallesen-Mustikay, Marc Schwesinger, Thuy Duong Du, Kathrin Steimle, Florian Goscheff, Thomas Hertleink, Yvonne Galdys, Deniz Hocauglu, Katerina Karapanceva, Anka Volk, Patrick Yong, team

Exhibition Concept and Design:
HG Merz, Stuttgart
Christine Kappei (Projektleitung), Markus Betz, Hannes Bierkamper, Tufan Cenberoglu, Annette Clavier, Svetlana Curcic, Michael Fragstein, Marc Guntow, Eva Hubner, Sebastian Koch, Felix Kronert, Boris Meiners, Joachim Munzig, Andreas v. Normann, Bjorn Plohmann, Kay Pruhs, Kristina Schimanski, Anja Soder, Thomas Thiemeyer, Daniel Utz, Cornelia Wehle

Interior designer:
UN Studio with Concrete Architectural Associates, Amsterdam

Special Elements:
Inside Outside, Petra Blaisse, Amsterdam


Werner Sobek Ingenieure, Stuttgart

Arnold Walz, Stuttgart

Climate engineering:
Transsolar Energietechnik, Stuttgart

David Johnson, Arup, London


Cost estimation:
Nanna Futterer, Stuttgart/Berlin

the Products

Structural system
ePTFE foil Manufacturer: Covertex Collection (Preshow Membrane)

Sto Shop area Floors

Bolicoat 50 Manufacturer
Bolidt Collection Ceilings



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