AUDI ELEcTRONIc CENTre. ingolstadt
Think tank. An automobile manufacturer and rail station suggest the typical typologies of mobility, yet the recently brought into operation Audi electronics centre displays a completely new use of space. It represents exactly the interaction and complexity of connections that we have not achieved at the level of the city in the sense of intelligent mobility. "Burg für Bytes" (Bastion for Bytes) was the headline in the Audi-Mobil employees' magazine at the opening. The amount of automobile electronics expressed as a proportion of the total cost of a vehicle is currently 25 percent and will rise to 35 percent by 2010. In the vehicles of tomorrow 90 percent of all innovations will be in the area of electronics. In the face of these demands Audi has created a new tool for integrated working.
Of major architectural interest is the direct spatial linking of the worlds of the automobile and the office, of thinkers and craftsmen, wall to wall, with views from window to window, threaded together by an ever busy production line crossed by bridges. Deeply inset lightwells, terraces and cascaded offices promote the impression of a labyrinth of knowledge in which ideas are not just conceived, but also fleshed out and fitted together. Here the company grapevine works better than the gossip pages street-cornered by Hamburg magazine publisher Gruner + Jahr. The ubiquitous prototypes, even if they are more often than not kept under wraps, are more tangible than newspaper layouts or thematic sketches. 21,000 square metres of office space are intermeshed with 9,000 square metres of workshops, laboratories and the latest in test benches. A lighting test tunnel, climate chamber, sound laboratory and drive simulators offer every option for testing out new ideas and prototypes.
Mies van der Rohe gave us some advice, which was expressed by Peter Behrens in 1912. Behrens believed that the purpose of a building in which work of the most serious and determined nature takes place, and which accordingly provides "the greatest brightness in the internal rooms, continuous ability to undergo alterations of size and shape, unobstructed communication and full use of the constructed area for work places" should be expressed in a building's appearance. Just as Frank Lloyd Wright had done over 100 years ago in Buffalo with the even higher window balustrades of his Larkin Building, Mies worked on his almost three-metre long charcoal drawing less as an aim in itself but rather as a celebration of the aim. For an automobile manufacturer, honing his financial calculations with a well sharpened pencil, that cannot be the motive. Nevertheless, with this perfect peak of electronic bureaucracy, Audi has made an important contribution to lifting the division between white collar and blue collar staff. Office, development and production areas are combined into a single creative high-tech workshop with integrated office functions at Ingolstadt.