BMW Central Building in Leipzig, Germany designed by Zaha Hadid.
BMW – Bayerische Motorenwerke – was founded in 1916 and commenced as a manufacturer of aircraft engines. After World War I, due to the Versailles Armistice Treaty, BMW was forced to cease production of its aircraft projects and shifted to motorcycle manufacturing in 1921. It wasn’t until 1928 that BMW started to evolve into automobile production. Around 1959 the company was faced with financial difficulties, almost causing BMW to liquidate their automobile division. Fortunately they prevailed and succeeded to become a leader in innovative automobile production. The Leipzig plant has been producing cars since 2005. 850+ cars are produced daily. It is one of the world’s most sustainable car manufacturing plants, being very conscious about the preservation of precious resources, such as water, energy and raw materials. Four wind turbines are utilized to provide green energy for BMW’s production of electric cars.
Zaha Hadid was born in 1950 in Baghdad, Iraq. She began her studies at the American University in Beirut, in the field of mathematics. In 1972 she moved to London to study architecture at the Architectural Association. Zaha was always content with the opportunities of being able to spend time drawing and designing, although no one thought she would ever design or build anything. Her parents were a great support, although her brothers thought it was unwise for Zaha to study something so unpractical. Zaha Hadid has become one of the most famous architects in the world. She has designed architectural pieces in some of the world’s most powerful cities, such as Beijing, Abu Dhabi, Rome and London. Some of her designs include a super yacht for Blohm and Voss, the 520 West 28th street condominiums in New York City, a ski jump in Austria, as well as the Changsha Mexihu International Cultural and Art Centre in China. Zaha was greatly influenced by Kazimir Malevich’s avant-garde art. He was a pioneer of geometric abstract art and the originator of the avant-garde and suprematist movements. Malevich’s art style also ties in with deconstructivism – a modernist style of architecture implemented into Zaha’s structures. Deconstructivism focuses on manipulating a structure’s surface and ultimately embody unpredictability and controlled chaos. Zaha believes that the environment of structures should portray the same coherence and integrity as nature. Her architecture exhibits fluidity and movement. Zaha embraces her architectural freedom and sees it as rewriting the script of architecture to make a new life and let the space be seen in a new way.
When Zaha Hadid Architects were chosen to design the Central Building for Leipzig’s BMW plant, it was crucial that the building successfully joined and integrated the already existing on-site production facilities. Zaha describes her project best by stating: “This building was very interesting because it was the weaving of all the flow lines from the exterior to the interior and also the weaving in of blue-collar workers and white-collar workers and management and design and production all in one space.” “We tried to build a large site as if it’s going to build over time because it is very layered, like it has an inherent archaeology.” The building acts as the main nerve center of the plant, joining together the three main production facilities. Cars move overhead, through the main building, not only above busier visitor’s heads, but also past the desks of managers, designers and specialists. The open office space designs date back to the feel of the American 1970s. It has a positive influence on workflow, teamwork and an open exchange of ideas. Therefore the building embodies what has been called a “communication knot – funneling all movement around the manufacturing complex through a space that transcends conventional white collar/blue collar special divisions.” Blue-collar and white-collar employees work side by side throughout the building and often meet at the centrally-located restaurant. There is a sort of market place feeling in the main hub of the structure. A scissor section connects the ground floor to the first floor. The terraced plates, resembling a staircase, step up from north to south and south to north continuing the linear flow of the architecture. The space was designed with very minimal use of columns. The two-dimensional lines are artfully constructed to provide a three-dimensional feel. The Central Building has a circular design to promote future growth. Even the parking lot contributes to the design. There is a continuous flow throughout and visitors pass under a canopy, from where they can enjoy a view into the depths of the plant’s intellect.
Zaha’s main philosophy for her architecture is something so simple and fundamental that we often forget about or overlook because we are so occupied with a more rapid and demanding lifestyle. “Architecture is about well-being. People should feel good, whether it’s in a school, or in a hospital or an office building or a plant or a house. The feel-good situation is very critical.” So great architecture is not about how complex, abstract, or extravagant the structure is, but the amalgamation of innovation, function and comfort, which Zaha Hadid has definitely accomplished.
by Carina Sanders and Christian Klugmann