Mercedes Benz Museum
With limited time to design and realise one of the most complicated structures recently conceived, Dutch firm UN Studio brought in some expertise. Two hundred and forty six companies and engineering firms were engaged for the Mercedes Benz Museum, a castle and a labyrinth described by the Guardian's architecture critic, Jonathan Glancey, as "jet-age baroque".

The structure of the Museum - three overlapping circles layered over eight floors in a twisting spiral - needed the expertise of Stuttgart University's Werner Sobek, head of the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design. Petra Blaisse, an interior and landscape architect known for her dramatic collaborations with Rem Koolhaas, worked on special elements. But if forming networks of knights and squires is the basis of UN Studio's work, so too is strong, centralised organisation. Parametric design, reducing the labyrinth to a single diagram or map, is the key.

"The only solution was to control the geometry of the building as completely as possible using the latest computer technology," says Ben van Berkel, UN Studio's co-founder and director. "Digitally controlling the geometry made it possible to incorporate any kind of change quickly and efficiently, immediately knowing the effects of that change on all other aspects of the building." UN Studio's computer wunderkind for Mercedes Benz was Arnold Walz. He'd been working on Gaudi Digital, an effort to digitise Gaudi's engineering experiments with hanging ropes, and generate a computer model of the Colonia Güel as it was originally envisaged. The Mercedes Benz Museum, which opened in Stuttgart in May, was the logical culmination of UN Studio's systems of practice. Founded in 1988 by Amsterdam and London-trained Van Berkel and art historian Caroline Bos, the firm really began to take shape with the Erasmus Bridge commission (1990-6) in Rotterdam. That struct...


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