It looks like a glass submarine and it is located on one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. But for the charms of the Côte d'Azur, the creative forces in the new Mercedes design center near Nice have little time. Because they are doing well and their work is more important than ever.
Yes, they still build cars and earn quite a lot of money. But who calls his employer a car manufacturer, jumps for Gorden Wagener a good deal too short. For Daimler's Chief Design Officer sees Mercedes less as a vehicle builder or mobility provider as a luxury and design brand on the level of famous fashion labels. In times when technology becomes more interchangeable, levels of progress converge, and interest in the physical characteristics of a car wanes, he relies on lust, passion and, yes, love, which he seeks to fuel with aesthetic and emotional enthusiasm. It is about a hot core of ultimate love for the product, a shell of cool intelligence and demands for simplicity and sustainability.
That sounds so pompous that you need enough space to give shape to such thoughts - mentally, organizationally and spatially. And at least the latter has recently been a little lacking in the international network on the planet Daimler. The center at home in Sindelfingen is huge and offers all the space in the world, the studio in Beijing is new and that in Carlsbad in California, at least relatively recently renovated. But the villa on Lake Como, in which the Swabians have mainly designed the interiors of tomorrow, was bursting at the seams and a conversion or expansion was unthinkable because of the monument protection.
Therefore, the creatives have moved in recent months and have a new studio in Sophia Antipolis on the outskirts of Nice put into operation. "With the new Design Center in France, we are consistently expanding the 'creative spaces' for our global design network. The location of the Design Centers around the globe means: We are at home all over the world and work and live in the future, "says Wagener.
The location fits twice. Firstly, the glass tube, which they call internally the "Nautilus", lies in an industrial zone that is considered the European answer to Silicon Valley by trend researchers and that serves all the important issues of digitization, networking and the search for the optimal user interface Beyond seductive forms, the designers are on the agenda. And on the other hand, Nice is almost more than the cradle of the brand as Stuttgart: For 1899, the businessman Emil Jellinek, who lives in Nice, first appeared in car races on the Côte d'Azur under the pseudonym "Monsieur Mercédès", the first name of his daughter Mercédès. And when he ordered a new race car shortly afterwards in Stuttgart, he had the name first written to the grill. The Swabians apparently so well liked that the Daimler engine company "Mercedes" 1902 registered as a registered trademark - and the lettering emblazoned since then together with the star on each car.
Just like the cars that are to be built here, the center itself is a show in itself: The 50 meter long and 20 meter wide construction in the shape of a cylinder is embedded in a pine forest; Concrete and glass dominate in the clear architecture of the building. Thanks to all-round glazing, all rooms are flooded with soft, Mediterranean light - ideal working conditions for designers. The building offers space for their work on 3.000 square meters around 50 designers. All relevant disciplines of Mercedes-Benz design will be represented there: from classic exterior and interior design to digital and UI / UX design, which is becoming increasingly important in times of autonomous driving and man-machine communication. And although the work of designers is increasingly determined by digitization, the good old clay block is also part of it: "Only here can we literally grasp and feel forms, that's why we certainly will not do without modeling," says one of the designers and scrapes a boldly curved fender from a hitherto shapeless brown log.
In general, one can not hang the position of the stylists high enough, Wagener is convinced: "We move away from industrial design to the automotive high fashion. Because only an aesthetic soul is the key to the long-term success of luxury brands. "What he means by this can not only be seen in the unveiled design study Vision EQS, with which Mercedes wants to define tomorrow's electric, sustainable and therefore future-proof luxury sedan. As a symbol for this transformation, he conjured up another show car specifically for the opening of the studio and thus honored a car that the PS world turned 120 years ago on its head: the Mercedes Simplex. For the car commissioned by Jellinek not only drove the competition up to La Turbie at the mountain races. He also marks the departure of Kutschbau and has paved the way for the still valid design principle of the automobile the way. And just as the Simplex changed the image of the car, Wagener wants to open his eyes again from Nice.