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BMW Museum, Munich

LED Media Media

issue 46 December / January 2008/9

Architects Atelier Brückner, media designers ART+COM and LED specialists G-LEC have developed a spectacular centrepiece to the new BMW museum in Munich, a symbiosis of architecture and technology

The term ‘museum’ often conjures up images of stuffy halls with uninspiring one-dimensional displays so it is perhaps misleading to call this particular attraction the ‘m’ word; for the new BMW Museum in Munich has a modern, dynamic language: the language of the automotive world. Opened on June 21st 2008, it sets a new standard in the realm of brand-focused museums. Along with the BMW Welt, opened in October 2007, and the BMW factory tour, the museum is the final component of the BMW Triad, where two million visitors are expected annually.

Analogous to the BMW brand, which stands for innovative technology and design, the BMW Museum takes new approaches to intertwining architecture, exhibition design and communicative media. The BMW Group could depend on an innovative realisation because of the experienced creative partners. The Stuttgart studio ATELIER BRÜCKNER was commissioned with the planning, architecture, and exhibition design. ART+COM, a Berlin design office for new media, completed the spatial media design and interactive installations, while the Swiss company DELUX AG was responsible for the general lighting design.
The initial call for the new BMW Museum came in 2003 when the BMW board of directors purposefully decided on the Munich location. In contrast to construction projects of other automobile manufacturers, the new museum building would not originate in a green meadow; instead, it was a matter of integrating the new museum into the existing structural fabric of the group headquarters in Munich. Here, trendsetting architecture already had a presence from the original 1973 plans of the Viennese architect Karl Schwanzer. This ensemble consists of the ‘Four Cylinder’ high-rise construction, the adjoining low buildings, and the ‘Museum Bowl’ that carries the BMW logo on the roof, and has subsequently developed into a landmark of the car group.

With the ‘Museum Bowl’ Karl Schwanzer designed the first car-specific museum in Germany. Prominent pieces from the BMW collection were exhibited there. Prior to this, exhibits were only shown in the factory museum, built in 1966, although the collection began in 1922.

Schwanzer’s basic idea for the museum building was the “continuation of the street in altered space”. The futuristic silver construction, which outwardly is very closed, looks light and generous inside. Via a rising spiral ramp, the visitor enters five seemingly free-floating platforms that serve as exhibition areas. The nearly circular base of the museum widens from approximately 20 metres to 40 metres in diameter. On platforms four and five, the wide airspace and building expansion becomes possible to experience.

The job to interpret this prominent architectural piece anew and lead it into the 21st century was transferred to the studio ATELIER BRÜCKNER. It was a matter of maintaining the original architectural and experiential qualities of the ‘Museum Bowl’, making it suitable for installations, and uniting this part with a completely new long-term exhibition area. This new exhibition area was housed in an existing adjoining low building, the West Wing of the group headquarters that had served until then as an employee lounge and parking garage. The building was cleared to bearing walls by the Stuttgart architects and given a new dynamic interior. The exhibition space could now be extended from its former size of 1000 to 5000 square metres.

However, it is the work of ART+COM, who completed the spatial media design and interactive installations that really catches the eye. Their design is based on interactive, reactive, and cinematic elements. These components go hand in hand with the architecture and exhibition design.

The BMW Platz, a collaborative development between ATELIER BRÜCKNER, ART+COM and LED specialists G-LEC, was designed as “Mediatecture”, a symbiosis of architecture and media. Through a series of experiments, the parameters were fixed to create an impressive spatial experience that adequately connected the brand to the architecture and media technology. The realised product works with monochrome white LEDs, which are mounted behind double glazed white sheets of glass. This combination is new, used here for the first time. The glass provides the impression – retained even at close range – of a uniform, closed picture where the technology is concealed from the visitor. One does not perceive the individual glass pieces as a defining element, instead discerning the overall glow from within the facade. 

Behind the 13 metre high glazed glass wall of the BMW Platz hides more than 1.7 million G-LEC LEDs that play recorded media. The installation comprises white surface mounted LEDs pitched at 20mm on white printed circuit boards. At the heart of the system is the ability to individually control each one of the LEDs, plus the means to cut each PCB into pixel sized increments in order to fit the installation absolutely around the shape of the space, including bridges, archways and wall fixings.

A total of 700sqm is covered with the circuit boards, the main challenge of such a space being to ensure that all the LEDs were at an exact 5600°K. The walls are then transformed into a media façade with the addition of huge panes of sand blasted glass placed at a specified distance in front of them. A special wall mounted ‘spider’ bracket was developed to mount the PCBs seamlessly onto the wall, with special covers to mask the joints.

The BMW design process from the idea to a specific scheme is in the ‘House of Design’. The starting point of the three stages highlighted in the house is the ‘Kinetic Sculpture’ in the ‘Inspiration’ space. ART+COM made this work of art a metaphor for the “flow of ideas”, and translates the virtual design process metaphorically into the space. Composed of 714 metal balls hanging from highly flexible steel ropes, it covers an area of 6 metres. Individual computer micro- motors control the movements, which seem to move solely through the power of thought guided by a cycle of free abstractions and vehicle forms typical of BMW.

The process starts with disordered thought and follows the choreography of associative ideas and geometric formations, finally leading to representations of vehicles like the 327, the 1500, the Z4 Coupe Concept Car, and the 2006 Mille Miglia. The formations of the sculptures are synchronised with lit catchwords on the walls and audio quotes from BMW designers.

In the room ‘Chronology’ (in the ‘House of the Company’) is the ‘Corporate Sculpture’. The 30 square metre media table is an interactive history of BMW. Text, pictures, and videos document 90 years of corporate history and provide information on vehicles, aircrafts, and engines. A list of BMW product statistics forms the ‘spine’ of the chronicle. The operation of the table is a multitouch-enabled interface that responds to hand contact. This technology is also used in a total of five ‘Infobars’ that offer in-depth information about exhibits and contents within different rooms of the museum.

The epilogue of the exhibition is the ‘Visual Symphony’ in the ‘Museum Bowl’. The column-free space has a 120 metres length wall surface and up to 6 metres of height that permits 360° of panoramic projection on the inner wall of the building bowl. 18 projections unite into an emotive all-around picture, created by the Berlin director Marc Tamschick.

Generated in real time, the film is of endless length. A sound staging of 125 loudspeakers and 64 channels is used. An impressive space-sound experience emanates as an epilogue and climax of the museum tour.
For all its multimedia innovation, the technology remains largely hidden. The focus is on the objects and the interaction of visitors with the content. The media was produced as an integral component of the architecture and staged exhibits. The installations are intuitive, for example, through use of multi-touch technology.

Audio installations such as the ‘Audio Books’ or video formats like the ‘Appearing Screens’ respond to the mere presence of the visitor. Overall, the media productions invite exhibition exploration and interactivity. The BMW Museum is a sensual, surprising, and meaningful experience.

The original museum concept of Karl Schwanzer found a contemporary interpretation in the new building, namely the “street in altered space as a principle of a dynamic architecture” (Prof. Uwe R. Brückner, head of the Stuttgart ATELIER BRÜCKNER). The proverbial “driving pleasure” was interpreted as a spatial experience. A dynamic, innovative architecture has emerged, where the leading idea of the “continuation of the street in altered space” is taken and transferred to a ramp system.

The media productions lift “the limitations of the room and put exhibits and content in motion” (Prof. Joachim Sauter, creative director, ART+COM).

In Munich an original automobile museum has emerged where architecture, content, statement, and creation interlock. They go hand in hand for an aesthetically demanding, consistent space that corresponds to the BMW brand. The museum fascinates through the origination of unique and individual solutions – in architecture, scenography, as well as the area of the new media technology.


BMW Museum, Munich BMW Museum, Munich ART COM DELUX AG
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