60 Years of Hot Cars: New Porsche Museum Celebrates the Need for Speed
Porsche's new museum in Stuttgart is a spectacular piece of architecture featuring equally spectacular cars. Auto fans can worship at the temple of speed as of Jan. 31.
When Porsche was celebrating its 60th anniversary last year, the company struggled to find a suitable location for the party. Although Porsche, which is based in the Stuttgart suburb of Zuffenhausen, has been building highly sought-after cars for decades, it didn't have a space where its success story could be properly told: Unlike Audi, Mercedes or BMW, Porsche did not have its own showcase company museum.
Now that has changed, with the spectacular new building due to open to the public on Jan. 31. In actual fact, the museum was supposed to have been finished in time for last year's party. But when the architectural competition for the new museum building was held five years previously, the company's management chose -- of course -- the most spectacular design, the work of the Vienna-based architecture firm Delugan Meissl. The construction was originally supposed to cost 50 million ($65 million). In the end, the museum cost twice that, with the work taking a lot longer than expected. "In professional circles, the design was initially regarded as unbuildable," says museum director Achim Stejskal. "But now it is finished and simply sensational."
"For the opening, we will have around 80 vehicles on show," says museum director Stejskal, adding that the permanent collection includes another 300 vehicles not on display. The 35-year-old director has only been at Porsche for half a year. His previous job was practically in the same neighborhood -- he was assistant director of the nearby Mercedes-Benz Museum. "None of the cars will gather dust," Stejskal explains -- most of the vehicles are roadworthy and compete in vintage races or classic car events. In this respect, the exhibition will be constantly changing, because some of the cars are on the move a lot of the time.
Motor fans can watch the mechanics getting the rare cars ready to drive; in the basement, which also houses the museum lobby, the company archives, a coffee bar and the museum shop, there is a glass-fronted workshop. Higher up in the building, where the exhibition begins, the visitor first sees a hand-built replica of the aluminum chassis of the Porsche Type 64, also known as the "Berlin-Rome car" because of its planned use in the -- eventually cancelled -- 1939 race between the two cities. The car is considered the essence of the Porsche brand and a precursor of the later Porsche 356 sports car.
At this point the visitor must make a decision. History fans can visit an exhibition featuring the chronological history of the company and follow the career of company founder Ferdinand Porsche up until 1948. Those who are desperate to finally see some real Porsches merely need to continue a few steps further into the main part of the exhibition. And there they are: sports cars, racing cars -- dream cars.
"The rooms are almost entirely white because the cars provide the colors," Stejskal says, explaining the museum's visual concept. "We didn't want any additional fancy staging for the vehicles." However so-called "thematic islands" are used to communicate selected Porsche brand values such as "light," "smart," "fast" and "strong." For example, a Porsche 956 is mounted on the ceiling above the visitor's head to illustrate the theme of speed. "We wanted to show that the car, when it is doing 321.4 km/h (200 mph), could theoretically drive on the ceiling," says Stejskal.
Car racing is one of the recurring themes of the museum. The Porsche management are more than happy to remind the visitor of the over 28,000 race victories which the brand has chalked up so far. One wall shows a forest of more than 150 trophies. Elsewhere, an installation of 320,000 LED lights provides the backdrop to six Porsche 917s. The constantly changing light display shows quotes from racers and images of race tracks.
The museum with be officially opened with a ceremony on Jan. 28. As well as Porsche boss Wendelin Wiedeking, Baden-Wuerttemberg Governor Günther Oettinger and Stuttgart Mayor Wolfgang Schuster will also be present. Three days later, the museum will open its doors to the public. More than 200,000 visitors per year are expected.
And the museum also creates new business opportunities for Porsche. "Right now there are more than 250 requests to hold events in the Porsche Museum," says Stejskal. The new building is already in demand as a venue -- not a bad achievement, when you consider that the property used to be a parking lot.
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