overview: Colin Sharp

I’ve been there three times, but I could happily visit monthly because this is a sculptural, cellular / globular structure that is patently unique. The first time was not long after the opening in late 2007, when I met architect Wolf D. Prix of Vienna-based Coop Himmelblau who explained the rationale behind this extraordinary creation. BMW Welt is an iconic, purpose-built, overtly modern structure in Munich and has become the most visited tourist attraction in Bavaria with over three times the visitors initially expected, now numbering well over two million per year.

BMW Welt (BMW World) is a multifunctional exhibition centre for BMW Group products and is used for meetings, presentations and promotional events. It forms part of the complex that includes the original ‘four pot’ BMW Headquarters building and the more recently completed museum. Opposite is the iconic Olympia Park.

Within this contemporary cave-like structure operations are coordinated with other local BMW facilities. A vast, cavernous semi-circular showroom space displays the current model lineup of BMW cars and motorcycles, plus other Group brands: Mini and Rolls-Royce. Customers collecting special order cars are treated to a dramatic staged experience in which they await their new purchase in an enormous glass-walled hall, while their cars are lifted up from lower levels on circular elevators. When there in late-May I watched a fortunate Canadian driving off in an awesome charcoal grey M4 GTS.

A short paved walkway from BMW Welt gives access to the new BMW Museum (2008) where, for a lengthy season, an exhibition is showing ‘100 Masterpieces BMW Group – 100 Years’; this in celebration of BMW’s centenary year ‘of innovative strength and entrepreneurial courage’.

Known as the salad bowl or white cauldron, this metal-clad futuristic building was designed by the architect of the adjacent BMW Headquarters, the Viennese professor Karl Schwanzer. The bowl’s roughly circular base is only 20 metres in diameter and the flat roof about 40 metres. From the ground floor entrance the levels ascend via a peripheral spiral ramp; slideshows and smaller in-depth exhibits are located on four ‘islands’ within the floor space. After ‘looping’ the actual exhibition visitors reach the upper floor and individual presentations; a small cinema hall and several interactive exhibits explain the technology further. An escalator provides access back to the ground floor.

This once-off 100 Years expo offers a unique opportunity to gain an insight into the history of what is now the world’s leading premium automotive brand, and experience the classic cars of the past century at close quarters. These are 100 selected masterpieces that have assisted in highlighting the role of BMW insofar as the history of the motor car in key eras.

For the full article see Habitat #255 September / October 2016