words Justin McGuirk
Speed was the key experience that Viennese architect Delugan Meissl wanted visitors to experience at its Porsche Museum, which has just opened in Stuttgart. The interior does a fair impression of a vorticist painting, all sharp angles and dog-leg bends.
Porsche, the most profitable car manufacturer in the world, is the latest German automotive brand to emblematise its might in a piece of striking architecture, following UN Studio’s Mercedes- Benz Museum in the same city and Zaha Hadid’s plant for BMW in Leipzig.
The museum rears up in a triangular spiral, with the main bulk of the building raised off the ground on diagonal pilotis. From some angles it looks like a giant spoiler, seeming to make a literal nod to the speed-boosting feature of classic Porsche sports cars. However, Martin Josst, a partner at Delugan Meissl, says that wasn’t the intention. “A lot of people say it reminds them of a spoiler, but that wasn’t the analogy we wanted to make. The main idea is how do we enter the universe of Porsche?”
The practice took a racetrack approach, laying out the 5,600sq m of exhibition space in a spiral, which it then stretched into a zigzagging form that follows a sequence of hairpin bends. “We were trying to compress the idea of Porsche into a space,” says Josst, “to create a space with acceleration and slowing down again.”
Visitors can follow the spiral around or they can take “shortcuts” straight to the car they’re interested in by using different staircases and vertiginous escalators.
Zuffenhausen, the northern suburb of Stuttgart that is home to the Porsche factory, has been synonymous with the brand for 60 years but it has never had a corporate symbol. The company also lacked an adequate museum space. The new building combines both of those functions, and houses 80 cars dating back to the first that Professor Ferdinand Porsche designed in 1948, the Type 356 “No. 1”.