If you’re hungry, the mere mention of the name “Bavarian” may evoke creamy images.
But nope, this isn’t about desserts. But it’s still a treat…for the eyes, that is.
When you buy a BMW—a German brand synonymous with sports cars—and you have the time and the means to pick the unit up yourself at the headquarters of Bayerische Motoren Werke/Bavarian Motor Works in Munich, expect to be blown away much like how Charlie felt as he toured Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
BMW begins your ultimate driving experience the very moment you slide into your brand spanking new unit and drive down into the open air on a curving, theatrically staged ramp.
It’s not just a ramp, mind you. It runs through the heart of the German landmark, which I would prefer to call the Munich “campus,” simply because we motoring journalists get “schooled” here in the fine art and high science of “precision presentation”. Here, every visitor realizes that BMW is dead serious in creating every automobile that is a joy to drive and ride. The BMW headquarters is a must-see for any tourist, be they car enthusiasts or mere ordinary motorists. The “campus” has almost everything: The BMW Welt, the museum, the production plant and the BMW world headquarters office building (which takes the form of a 331-foot-tall four-cylinder tower).
As a customer, you are also introduced to the technology of the Bavarian manufacturer’s new vehicles in special simulation rooms, then taken down to the premier platform via a cascade of steps that would not feel out of place in Hollywood.
Yes, architecture and the feats of automotive engineering are combined in one of Germany’s most iconic brands.
The BMW roundel, a white airplane propeller against a blue sky, is a reminder of the company’s roots as a former aircraft engine manufacturer. BMW has since gone more “down-to-earth” in its endeavors, but its standards of precision, perfection and performance are still sky-high. As auto journalist David Kiley remarked about BMW, the engineers here in Munich are obsessed about the balance of the rear drive setup, the power-to-weight ratio, and the ability to stop from 150 to 0 kph (because the real challenge would be to achieve control, not just speed).
I was here seven years ago.No, not to pick up my brand new BMW car (oh, but how I wish I did!), but as a tourist on a window-shopping mission, and be up-close and personal with such eye-popping structures and technological marvels.
Designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au, BMW Welt cost a reported 250 million euros and opened in 2007. There is a museum alongside, but the “carchitecture”, according to Intersection Cars Now, acts more as an “experience center” with a delivery area where customers can delight in their “appetizers” before being served the main course of their own vehicles—courtesy of a massive spiral ramp on which the car arrives from a vortex-like structured roof.
The building is incredibly complex and overtly so, physically mirroring to some extent BMW’s current range of elaborately concave and convex surfaced cars while also suggesting of the brand’s technological expertise. No wonder BMW Welt has become Munich’s top tourist attraction.
And I did my homework, too, before setting foot on this magnificent establishment. A few weeks prior to the trip, I already read up on the history of this Bavarian landmark. Then, upon arriving at the Berlin airport, I had the privilege of driving a BMW 1 car, courtesy of the Philippines’ exclusive BMW importer and distributor Asian Carmakers Corp. That driving experience sort of primed my consciousness on what to expect before I entered the BMW Welt.
Still, nothing could prepare me for the actual experience. The historical skyscraper cylinders, and the Bowl adjacent to it (both designed by Austrian architect Karl Schwanzer), have been German landmarks since the 1960s. These structures were extensively written about by professor Frank R. Werner in his book “Coop Himmelb(l)au BMW Welt, Munchen.”
I understood then why someone could write an entire book about just one structure. It was that overwhelming.
Just across the street is the BMW Welt where a giant double-cone glass structure of Munich twists like a solid hurricane, much like how BMW takes its loyal followers by storm every time it rolls out new models. The double cone, with the whirlwind structures, represents the speed, elegance and aesthetics of BMW. No less than 275 architecture firms submitted tenders for the BMW Welt, and the jury’s decision was unanimous.
According to BMW Welt history, the winning design was by professor Wolf D. Prix and the Viennese architecture firm Coop Himmelb(l)au. As a student, Prix attended lectures by professor Karl Schwanzer, the architect of the four-cylinder BMW headquarters and the BMW Museum. On one occasion, Schwanzer’s lecture was interrupted by a call. When he came back he said to his students: “Today is like Christmas for me—I have won the BMW Tower!” Exactly 30 years later, as Prix was himself giving a lecture in Vienna, he was interrupted by a call—a call informing him that he “won the BMW Welt competition.”
In terms of function, the BMW Welt is something that Werner describes as a “modern hybrid.”
The Welt is 180 meters at its longest, 130 meters at its widest, and 28 meters at its highest. The in-house function book lists over 1,000 rooms. Turntables on the premier platform, which Werner describes as “presented like altars,” can accommodate up to 250 selected customers per day. These customers can collect their new cars there, then “glide away in it into the open air down a long, curving theatrically staged ramp.”
Charlie earned the privilege of touring the Chocolate Factory by owning the golden ticket. I hope someday to “win” my own “golden ticket” and drive my own BMW car down that Hollywoodish ramp. And it won’t be just any other BMW car, but a customized i3 electric car—one with sustainable materials devoid of leather, with tires sans animal-sourced stearic acid. By then, it would be more than awesome. It’d be cruelty-free, as well.