History of the Mercedes-Benz Museum since 2006

Feb 12, 2016
High visitor numbers, coveted awards, a strong presence well beyond its region in the cultural and event scene, and smooth operation right from the beginning: ten years after opening its doors, the Mercedes-Benz Museum has every reason to celebrate. This success story did not just start in 2006, but came from the seminal impulse to give the history of the company and brand a new showcase within a pioneering architectural setting.
Building on what is good to create something better: that was the vision with which the planning for the future Mercedes-Benz Museum outside the gates of the Untertürkheim plant commenced just before the turn of the millennium. The approach was uncompromising. After all, the brand not only stands for a culture of first-class technology and products extending from the legendary beginnings of motorised transport to the present day and future. It has also been a pioneer in the museum presentation of product, corporate and automotive history. This is particularly obvious in the Museum on the Untertürkheim site, which opened in 1961 and was comprehensively restructured for the one hundredth anniversary of the automobile in 1986: at the beginning of the new millennium, this museum was the world's most successful and most-visited corporate and brand museum in the automobile industry.
Brand history in a historical location
It was on these strong foundations that the new Museum was to be created. The first planning steps were already taken in 1999. In August 2000 the Executive Board of the then DaimlerChrysler AG took the decision to construct a new building on a 21,000 square metre site directly outside the main gate of the Untertürkheim plant. The location is not only highly symbolic, it is ideal for a building destined to be a 21st century icon and intended to set standards in urban planning, as well as to further strengthen the public presence of the brand and its history. At the same time this location presented considerable challenges, as it lay right in the middle of the protected area for Stuttgart's mineral water springs and had difficult ground conditions which included possible contamination from the Second World War.
This was compounded by an ambitious time schedule. This was because the Museum was to be opened in 2006 – 120 years after the invention of the automobile, and the year when the Federal Republic of Germany was to host the football World Cup for the second time. This only left a project time of six years from the initial idea to the official opening. The key to success in completing this task proved to be planning procedures which were based on digitisation and uniform processes from the very start – and on close cooperation between all the contractors involved in a shared project control centre near the site.
Digital construction management for the Museum of the new millennium
The best of both worlds came together in this project centre during the construction phase: on the one hand the computer, with its extreme capabilities for process planning and the calculation of complicated reinforced concrete structures. And on the other the classic culture of a construction site where personal dialogue is the order of the day: rather than writing messages to each other, the engineers and architects, contractors and Museum management communicated directly to resolve issues as they arose. Their identification with the project was correspondingly strong.
The ensuing exchange of expert knowledge is well remembered by Dierk Mutschler, who likens it to the deliberations of the Mediaeval cathedral builders. At the time Mutschler was the project manager for the Museum at Drees & Sommer, and is now an Executive Board member of that company. As a project management partner, he was involved in the creation of the Museum from the initial idea to the architectural competition and the eventual opening in 2006. This advance planning provided the working basis for the architects who were invited to submit designs for the Mercedes-Benz Museum in 2001: a total of ten international studios entered the competition. Five of them were based in Germany, the others in Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain and the USA. An abstract building model already summarised all the requirements for the new Museum, from the spatial and area needs to the costs allowed for the different construction phases.
Building in new dimensions
The final decision to go ahead was taken in spring 2002, construction contracts were awarded in March 2003 and the foundation stone was laid in September 2003. Under the attentive gaze of the specialist world, the public and fans of the brand, the Museum gradually took shape over the next two years. Dynamically curved concrete sections, the steel facade supports and the other features of the building came together to form a harmonious whole. This was a project which added new dimensions to construction in both technical and organisational terms, in order to "combine a number of radical spatial principles and achieve a new typology as the end result," as Ben van Berkel puts it.
The work on the Museum itself, and on the entire Mercedes-Benz World with its infrastructure, went ahead at full speed: the connecting road was inaugurated in April 2004, the topping-out ceremony for the Museum and the start of interior work was in March 2005, the vehicle exhibits were installed by special crane from October to December 2005, followed by detailed work on the presentation and six weeks of intensive test operation.
Ceremonial opening on 19 May 2006
This was followed by the opening ceremony on 19 May 2006. On that day the construction site finally became a place where the Mercedes-Benz brand issued an invitation to marvel, discover and experience. Something which visitors from all over the world have done ever since. For them the Museum is the internationally most important brand platform for Mercedes-Benz, and even a reason in itself to travel to Stuttgart from afar. And indeed, the Museum excels in its ability to capture the enthusiasm of a very broad range of people.
The Museum already had 500,000 visitors in the first half-year, and the one million mark was reached in summer 2007. In winter 2015 the seven-millionth visitor was welcomed in the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Looking back at the first decade of the Museum's operation and events, it is obvious how well things are working in terms of architectural quality and technology. Dependability and confidence, combined with passion and innovation: these are the values that characterise ten years of exhibitions and events in the Mercedes-Benz Museum. At the same time they are attributes of the brand itself.