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Mercedes Benz Museum, Stuttgart, Germany

Issue 32 Aug / Sep 2006 : Architectural : Museum


Concrete Architectural Associates has designed a dynamic space in an inspirational building designed by UNStudio...

Designed by UN Studio, one of the world’s most highly esteemed architectural firms, the museum would be worth a visit for its architecture alone.

Ben van Berkel, co-founder and director of UN Studio: “The Mercedes-Benz Museum combines a number of radical spatial principles with each other and thereby creates a completely new typology.”

The most conspicuous feature resulting from this novel approach is the route visitors take. Their tour of exploration does not start at ground level in the entrance area but at the topmost level where they are taken by lifts. From here, they can go on one of two tours running through the museum from the top downwards. The two routes meet at each level so that the visitor can decide time and again anew whether to continue on the Legend or Collection tour.

The interior design for the retail area, restaurants and the Mercedes Benz Presentation area was carried out by Amsterdam based ‘concrete architectural associates’. They were also responsible for the clever lighting scheme.

Lisa Hassanzadeh was the concrete project leader: “Lighting is always a big issue in our design and so it was within the museum. We used the light mainly to create intimacy. All the lamps we used are dimmable which allows us to create individual light situations.”

The “passage” is situated on the ground floor of the building and connects the Museum with the Mercedes Benz Centre. Its total area amounts to 2560 sqm. In this space, concrete were asked to design the shops, the restaurants and the Mercedes Car Group presentation. The starting point was a huge open field, structured by skylights and a patio.

Coming from the escalator of the museum, the visitor is automatically led to the retail area. The area consists of nine single shops in the shape of a circle. They function like a pinball machine with the visitors bumping from one attraction into the other. In this way, the effective floor area becomes the circulation area and vice versa. Each shop circle is determined by its wooden flooring and the shelves which seem to “grow” out of the ground. The circular shelves are made of translucent plastic. The fronts of these are lit up by neon tubes. The combination of bamboo flooring and the circular lighting rails (developed with Zumtobel) hung from the ceiling creates a light and floaty atmosphere.

Like the shops, the restaurant is also part of the overall “passage” concept. This space consists of ten single dining islands separated by metal-ball curtains hanging from discs, which mirror the floor area of each circle. Each island has its own individual atmosphere. Between the circles, a field of chrome sphere-lamps creates a virtual second ceiling, enhancing the space’s intimacy.

“For the ‘basic’ light in the different circles of the restaurant we used dimmable standard halogen spots from Zumtobel. Next to this we used some special light features to strengthen the intimacy and the individual atmosphere in each circle,” comments Hassanzadeh.

These special features include a Mooi double shade chandelier and a flatscreen which shows an endless loop of a fireplace; Tom Dixon mirror balls; and a suspended chrome Bolster lamp from Modular.

The Presentation of the Mercedes Car Group consists of five individual circles accentuated by cylinders which seem to grow out of the ceiling. Each brand is represented in one circle which becomes a small world of its own. The representation of the Corporate Identities is limited to the inner surfaces of the cylinders. The outside is kept in neutral white. In combination with the light gleaming from the inside of the cylinders, the visitor’s curiosity is stimulated and they are drawn into the circles.

“We wanted the inside of the cylinders to glow,” states Hassanzadeh. “Therefore we placed stretch ceilings in each of them (except the SLR-presentation which is lit by daylight).”

The cafe is situated at the end of the exhibition space. The aim was to create a place of “visual calmness” after all the light effects the visitor has seen within the exhibition. Therefore the lighting design is rather simple but nevertheless effective.

This is achieved with five dimmable, 3-metre wide, doughnut-shaped Pelota lamps made by Flos. The lamps contain warm white tubelights which conjure up images of Italian cafes. The entire back wall is lit from beneath with a extremely long lightbox. This creates a never ending sunrise within the heart of the museum which inspires the visitor to relax.



technical information

Architect: UN Studio
Exhibition concept and design: HG Merz
Lighting/Interior Design: concrete architecture associates (Rob Wagemans, Lisa Hassanzadeh, Erik van Dillen)
Lighting: Zumtobel, Modular, Tom Dixon, Mooi, Flos


  • Mercedes

    The retail area features circular light rails developed by Zumtobel

  • Mercedes

    A suspended version of Modular’s chrome Bolster lamp is used in the restaurant;

  • Mercedes
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