Thursday, 1 April 2010

Autostadt CarTowers, Wolfsburg, Germany

I visited Autostadt in Wolfsburg during my time in Germany, it was definitely worth the one hour train ride for the immensity of the CarTowers. I was fascinated by the rotational and vertical movement of the cars up and down the towers and wanted to investigate further into this structure where its paths of movement are inherent to the shaping of the architecture.

' “Architecture is not an end in itself. Architecture always performs a function”, emphasises Gunter Henn, a man who has given new meaning to the term “corporate identity”. For Volkswagen, he created on a site measuring 22 hectares a world of automotive experience without equal. He brought together the seven marques of the Volkswagen brand in one location, translated each of these into a separate, unique shape and interconnected them all using a common architectural language. “It would simply have been too crude just to show the cars. We have endeavoured to create spaces in which visitors perceive the brand in their subconscious, even without actually seeing the automotive product”, Henn explains.

The two 48-metre-high “car towers” of glass in the north of Autostadt were designed by Gunter Henn to provide a deliberate contrast to the four gigantic chimney stacks of the VW coal-fired power station: “Authenticity is very important to us. It belongs to the genetic code of Autostadt, its DNA.” The 20-storey glass cylinders each contain 400 new vehicles, which are stored and retrieved fully automatically in 40-second cycles. Once in the underground tunnel system, they are transferred to the Customer Centre for handover to their new owners. With all-round glazing, this elliptical construction also fits perfectly within the open character of the “city”.'

- Autostadt, Wolfsburg, Dorma website

Currently there are two towers, however there is the footprint for two further towers along side, for further development. Within each elliptical tower is a central crane mechanism with two platforms, each platform can rotate through 180 degrees and thus each one serves half the ellipse. Cars arrive from the factory at the bottom of the tower, the cranes then collect the cars and put them into storage bays, within 24 hours each car will have been retrieved from its bay and delivered to the customer. There are roughly 500 deliveries per day.

I was extremely fortunate to be able to follow the journey a car would take up the tower, below is a film I made whilst travelling up through the tower. I sat within a glass box which was retrieved by the crane at the foot of the tower and rotated up through the space, before being released into a bay on the top level. I set up a camera at the front of the box and captured the simulation of the journey of a car, the result is a smooth steady escalation (minus the slight jolts of the crane retrieving and releasing the car on and off the platform) and a film of the architecture of the building derived from its paths of movement.

The following film is a montage of various movements within the CarTower, involving cars being placed in and retrieved from bays. The film shows the dynamic movement of each platform serving each half of the elliptical tower. With views from the base and top of the tower and whilst onboard the moving platform.

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