Art News & Views



The Bowl, Flat and Dynamic Architecture of the BMW Museum

by Shambhavi R. Padukone

The conception for the BMW museum was developed out of an awareness of its own history during the very first years of its formation. The first products were displayed as not-for-sale souvenirs in a room in the Munich plant in 1922, which developed into the plant museum. In the late 1960s, the Viennese architect Prof. Karl Schwanzer was commissioned to design and build the BMW Tower ensemble along with an independent museum building in the form of a silver-grey bowl. It was officially inaugurated on 18th May 1973.The Bowl presents itself as a self-contained and massive concrete sculpture. Prof. Schwanzer defined the inner structure of the Bowl building as a traffic complex with the continuation of the road in an enclosed space.

The BMW board commissioned the Stuttgart architects and exhibition designers Atelier Bruckner and the ART+Com media designers from Berlin to expand and redesign the exhibition space. The restoration of the façade or the shell of the building and the technical aspects were carried out by ASP Schweger Associates. The planning had begun in 2002, followed by the radical redevelopment work in 2004 and finally reopened in 2008.The concept of the new architectural additions referred back to Prof. Schwanzer's idea of a road in an enclosed space. This notion was developed further in the new adjacent building with the vision of a “road in an enclosed space as the principle dynamic architecture”.

During the redesigning process between 2004 and 2008, the museum Bowl was restored to its 1973 original state. Analogous to the round structure of the building, a central visitors' ramp connects a series of square platforms that seem to be hovering above the ground. The ramp has been interpreted as a road and the square platforms as exhibition areas. The Bowl building, the original exhibition space for the Museum from 1973 to 2004, showcases temporary exhibitions bringing to light innovative technology and designs. The Line of Beauty is an on going exhibition until September 2012, displaying fourteen extraordinary big BMW Coupes and Convertible's.

The architects and exhibition designers of Atelier Bruckner have integrated the concept of the ramp as road into the neighbouring low-rise building of the museum. The low-rise building is a space for an extensive thematic permanent exhibition. The exterior façade of this rectangular building has been maintained and preserved as a “historical shell”. The interior was gutted and completely restructured. Contemporary architecture was integrated into the newly created large space consisting of a surrounding ramp and seven individual exhibition houses. The exhibition in the redesigned low-rise building is characterized by a thematic display of the exhibits that do not intrude on the unique architecture of the building. Both building sections, the Bowl and the low-rise structures are connected to each other by a visitor's ramp.The architecture of the low-rise building gives a more urban impression compared to the Bowl.

Ninety years of BMW heritage is represented in all its facets through seven thematic exhibition blocks, an arrangement that is also reflected in the architecture of the low-rise building. Each of the seven thematic blocks is allocated to a “House” within the building and extends over two to three levels. These are not anchored on chronology but focus on key aspects typical of BMW legacy. The first room in the House of Design titled Inspiration looks at the phenomenon of inspiration and focuses on the core issue that highlights and distinguishes the BMW brand and the design. The next exhibition Studio illustrates the workshop where the complex processes a new BMW vehicle undergoes. The lower area of the House of Design is titledTreasury. This space has been deliberately sparsely lit where visitor get to see some of the most valuable and important vehicles that influence the BMW design even today. The House of the Company provides an in-depth insight on the company history. It presents the origins of the BMW success story through the first aircraft engine in 1916, the first motorcycle in 1923 and the first automobile in 1928. It documents the people who played a key role for the BMW group and who influenced the company culture through jointly held ideas, visions and values.

The House of Motor Sport reflects its initial commitment to Formula 1 as an engine supplier and later building its own Formula 1 team with Sauber in 2006. It celebrates the unparalleled trail of success during the 1970s and 1980s. The House of the Motorcycle narrates how the BMW motorcycle developed at the production site in Munich and introduces the most important innovations in motorcycle construction since then. The House of Technology highlights the efficiency and performance of the BMW technology through exhibit themes like Lightweight Construction, Engines and Aerodynamics. The House of Series features the development of individual series and documents the development of BMW in the executive class and the success of the BMW M models. The seventh exhibition block, the House of the Brand, focuses on the brand as reflected in advertisements and the relationship between customers and “their BMW”.

The permanent exhibitions also include the “Vision” area. This demonstrates the pioneering path that the BMW Group has traditionally embarked on. Since 1970s, the company has been researching into ecological drive technologies and is currently focussing on reducing emissions and fuel consumption of vehicles, while increasing the dynamic power. Keeping this vision in mind amodel of a hydrogen-powered vehicle is presented at the base of the Bowl building. The emphasis of the BMW Museum is to project itself as a Brand Museum, which showcases the history of the BMW Company, its brand and its products by integrating architecture and exhibition themes.

Tags: art, architecture

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