The car, the city and great art
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View of the VW Autostadt with the main plant in Wolfsburg behind it. The Volkswagen Mecca has existed for 10 years.
Source: dpa / DPA
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A VW Polo is lifted off the shelf in one of the Autostadt’s two car towers. The huge construction looks like it was made for toy cars.
Source: dpa / DPA
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Visitors watch as a VW Tiguan is taken out of the tower for the customer in a fully automatic elevator.
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The showpiece of the exhibition: a Bugatti Veyron 16.4, the world’s most powerful production car with 1000 hp.
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While the two car towers of the Autostadt in Wolfsburg tower above the entire site, the brightly illuminated brand pavilions of Skoda (left) and Seat (right) form the flat…e counterpart.
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The Autostadt power station was illuminated in color as part of the birthday celebration.
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The silhouette of the power station shines magically against the Wolfsburg night sky.
Source: dpa / DPA
For ten years, VW has been doing more than just business in the Autostadt, it’s about the perfect staging – which doesn’t always succeed.
Nsomebody invited her. They just came and settled on the Autostadt site. When the VW amusement park in Wolfsburg turns ten on June 1st, they will still celebrate: the ducks dozing on one leg in the hustle and bustle. Or the pair of geese that are incessantly pulling on the lawn. Only the carp were wanted to keep the algae growth in the waters in check. But they too have long been enjoying their meditative existence and being fed by the millions who stroll through the Japanese gardens every year.
2009 was the best year so far with 2.21 million visitors, even better than 2001, when 2.17 million curious visitors came the year after the opening. Those who pick up their vehicle and combine it with a visit to the amusement park, on the other hand, are in the minority: 41,500 new vehicles were received in the Autostadt in the first three months of 2010. Around two thirds of the visitors, it is calculated in Wolfsburg, come without the reason to have bought a new car.
This success is not self-evident. “We could just as easily have failed with our concept,” says Otto Ferdinand Wachs, who was commissioned by the then VW CEO Ferdinand Piëch in the mid-1990s to set up an adventure world on the industrial site. A world that should make collecting the new car something unforgettable.
Wachs commissioned architects, creatives, marketing strategists – everything that supposedly knows about the interfaces between art and commerce. And yet at the end of 1997 he was sitting under the Christmas tree, half desperate. "The proposals were great, impressive – and yet they would not have carried them longer than six months past the opening," says Wachs. And started all over again with a blank sheet of paper.
At that time there were no role models or simply competing models, as you can find them today “with the colleagues in the south” of BMW and Mercedes. “The thing that appealed to us the most was the architecture of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles,” says the managing director of Autostadt. "But in terms of content, there was little to copy, because everything at Getty revolves around the collection of paintings."
When wax ponders this time, it sounds like it was 100 years ago. Only a decade has passed in which the Autostadt became the model and benchmark for all of its subsequent projects.
This morning, Wachs speaks loudly and clearly about the Autostadt . Not because it is his life’s work, but because the situation requires it. He sits high up on the open balcony of the Chardonnay restaurant, which is hidden from visitors, above the piazza in the entrance hall, while the visitors below him are noisy. "I’m sorry it’s so loud here," flirted the boss.
A school class found out in the piazza how the work of the artist Ingo Gunther should be understood. A huge globe hangs from the ceiling, while the glass floor below presents around 80 other small globes. The artist used them to illustrate topics that move our world. This includes the statistics of nicotine deaths in individual countries as well as the course of the fiber optic networks that are laid on the seabed.
What is already apparent in the entrance hall of the corporate world is the triad of art, education and mobility. "School classes from Lower Saxony officially hold part of their lessons here," says press spokeswoman Ilka Seer. The managing director was not responsible for the educational and artistic preparation of all aspects of mobility. Wax had more to do with promoting the innovative concept of the VW subsidiary in the parent company. The creative management of the Autostadt, however, was and is in the hands of Maria Schneider.
If she had already successfully supported exhibitions of contemporary art at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, she should have found her actual place of work in the Autostadt. Instead of only presenting the greatest contemporary artists to a small target group, as was previously the case, she succeeded in getting creative people enthusiastic about projects in the Autostadt.
Jurgen Mayer H., Berlin star architect and artist, designed “Level Green”, the exhibition about sustainability. The fragrance tunnel on the premises comes from the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, who has already exhibited in the London Tate Gallery and taught at the University of the Arts in Berlin. In the Premium Clubhouse, Olaf Nicolai, who was already represented at the Venice Biennale and the Documenta in Kassel, mirrored a Bugatti Veyron 16.4, the most powerful production car in the world.
In this context, even Jeff Koons, one of the most expensive creatives of our time, was rejected. “We decided on a different artist,” says Schneider, who not only feels obliged to art, but even more to the public. "Here you vote with your feet."
The VW Group gives 30 percent to the budget, the rest is generated by the amusement park itself. Nevertheless, in 2003 the project almost failed. At that time the length of stay of the visitors was reduced to 3.5 hours. “The length of stay reflects the quality of the visit,” says Wachs. As a result, the entire corporate world in the entrance building was rebuilt, the “Movimentos” cultural series was founded, and more emphasis was placed on pedagogy. "Today we are at 5.8 hours, that’s a giant leap."
So you could think that in the Autostadt for the ten-year anniversary celebration everything would be sunshine and rain. But it is not. The individual brand pavilions do not maintain the level that is reached on the corporate level with “Level Green”, design and stock exchange workshops or the “Zeithaus” classic car museum.
In the Lamborghini house, a Gallardo is attached to the wall behind bars. Then 110 decibels of engine sound boom from the speakers to a fog and laser show. Seat and Skoda, on the other hand, do not present their vehicles much differently than in the rest of the showrooms in Germany. In the VW brand pavilion, lifestyle films are thrown on the ceiling, which are intended to show the values of the group as well as the four seasons. Afterwards you will be led into a room in which the cross polo is shown. The cross polo!
In the meantime, the brands’ marketing departments, which are allowed to design their own houses, also seem to understand. "The VW pavilion is being completely rebuilt," says Wachs. Recently, two people in charge of the individual brands presented themselves to Wachs after a tour of the corporate world and Zeithaus. “They said that they’d have to step on the gas in the pavilions.” Sometimes, insight is the first step towards improvement.
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