A journey through automobile history and the art of the Mercedes-Benz brand through an architectural framework. How can the building of a museum elevate the legacy of its subjects? UN Studio has found the perfect answer with the design of the 2006 Mercedes-Benz Museum. The studio accomplished a masterful way of creating a compelling storytelling of the brand through architecture that impacts its viewers and invites them in at first sight.

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Mercedes-Benz by UN Studio_©Eva Bloem

In Stuttgart, Germany, the museum houses the history of the famous automobile brand and some of its most emblematic vehicles. The headquarters for the Mercedes-Benz brand established itself there in 1926. With nine levels and 25,000 square meters of area, it is home to 160 cars and 1,500 exhibits. A true architectural icon by UN Studio that balances lightness despite its visual weight.

UN Studio’s approach to the design

Museums are combinations and showcases of experiences. They are landmarks in human collective history and beacons of its evolution, intertwining different angles and contexts to tell a story. Naturally, the architecture of these places carries much of their meanings and impacts, and it’s bound to hold responsibility for crafting a big part of their story. UN Studio faced the task of designing a venue and a monument to represent automobile culture and art. As such, they have created a piece of architecture deeply connected with the roots of its theme. Historical exhibits and vehicle collection displays merge and spiral into each other through paths designed to collide and converge. The result is exciting spatial compositions that acclaim the cultural impact of this legendary car brand.

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A museum experience_©Eva Bloem

Style achievements

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An icon for automobile architecture_©Eva Bloem

UN Studio based the structure of the building on a trefoil with a void in the centre and an atrium. This geometry was particularly challenging regarding the 3D model and planning the program for the venue. The complexity of this organic form meant the studio had to work collectively with others professionals to ensure the physical and artistic integrity of the design. Working with BIM technology guaranteed that all changes were quickly addressed and sorted. 

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The trefoil design_©UN Studio

Cast-in-place concrete supports the main structure. Because of its final shape, this demanded geometrical explorations that resulted in the creation of a twist. This innovative design solution gives more character to the building, and the architects have positively taken advantage of it by designing a layout of the exhibition routes in a fluid way enabled by the twist. 

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Section showcasing the platforms and the main void with the atrium_©UN Studio

Smooth curved aluminium sheets and glass panes cover the outside of the museum and play with the spectator’s senses. When gazing at it from the outside platform, the metal shines with the sunlight, and the windows lure you in, creating an interesting sensorial game. This design choice by UN Studio was certainly reasonable; these are also materials used in the car industry. With a design and materiality closely planned to match the philosophy of the Mercedes-Benz brand in terms of innovation, aesthetics and high-tech design. Using triangular panes of glass, aluminium, and an exposed concrete structure adds monumentality to the building that stands out in its surroundings. It makes a statement of endurance, much like the vehicles themselves.

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An architectural landmark_©https://tinyurl.com/wikiMercedesBenz
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The elegancy of the aluminium sheets and glass panes_©facadeworld.com/2015/02/16/mercedes-benz-museum-stuttgart/

Movement and Speed: the routes

The trefoil design connects three “leaf” platforms to the main “stem” structure, the atrium. The converging nature of this structure allows for a void to be in the centre, framing an overlap of paths and letting visitors have different perspectives of exhibition spaces as they exit and enter other gallery spaces. UN Studio also devised a fire-safety system in collaboration with specialists working on the museum, through which smoke is expelled from the gallery spaces and eliminated by a ‘tornado’ mechanism through the top of the atrium. 

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View of the trefoil shape from the atrium_©Eva Bloem

Visitors can choose their routes along the gallery spaces according to the theme-based exhibitions. The Legend rooms are the tallest in the buildings and showcase the beginning of car history and what lies in its future, and the Collection rooms display most of the famous vehicle models by Mercedes-Benz. The latter route is exhibited in broad daylight provided by the window glass panes that separate the outside of Stuttgart, with its twisting Neckar Valley landscape, from the inside of this gallery room with its curvy design display platforms, emulating the surrounding context but also the race tracks and highways, the ‘natural habitat’ for the cars. By subverting expectations and roles, the spectator drives themselves to the cars through rails that guide them along a journey, this time not conducted by a Mercedes but towards them.

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Sophistication and modernity in one of the exhibition routes_©Eva Bloem

A Unique Philosophy

UN Studio has accomplished nothing short of an architectural landmark with this piece. It gracefully avoids falling into the category of spectacle-space architecture by granting the protagonist role to its very subject: the Mercedes-Benz cars. The museum’s architecture certainly doesn’t outshine its issue, instead drawing inspiration from it and creating an architectural profile that impacts its viewer and provides a platform for them to immerse themselves into an experience, a journey through the brand’s history. And while, yes, the goal can be the journey and not the destination, this piece of innovative architecture has proved it can be both. UN Studio successfully fabricated a car ride through time in a space carefully tailored to depict the stories and milestones of the Mercedes-Benz ongoing legacy.

The steep curve found in Legend room 7 of the museum_©Mercedes-Benz Museum


Arch Daily (2017). Mercedes-Benz Museum / UNStudio. [online]. (Last updated 24 February 2017). Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/805982/mercedes-benz-museum-unstudio [Accessed 08 February 2023].

UnStudio (2015). Mercedes-Benz Museum. [online]. Available at: https://www.unstudio.com/en/page/12482/mercedes-benz-museum [Accessed 08 February 2023].

Mercedes-Benz (2019). The architecture of the Mercedes-Benz Museum. [online]. Available at: https://www.mercedes-benz.com/en/art-and-culture/museum/architecture/.


Sofia Rezende is an Architect and Urban Planner from Brazil. She graduated in the class of 2015 from the Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil, and later pursued a Master’s (MSc) degree in the same subject with a focus on studying social housing and family demography, topics she’s very passionate about.