Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

New cathedrals of consumption for German car makers. Autostadt as a built metaphor.

Dion Kooijman


German automobile manufacturers have been busy revitalizing their relations with their customer base by designing and developing new showrooms and flagship stores. In many cases these include museums, restaurants and other leisure attractions under the same roof. Beyond the extension of the production sphere with consumption spaces, the erected consumption spaces are all about the 'experience economy' which has become en vogue during the past ten years. AutoCAD from Volkswagen, located near Wolfsburg in Germany, is a good example. The paper will describe the various aspects of this case and compare them to the projects of the other German car makers. The business chain is undergoing a shakeup, resulting in the emergence of a new spatial network of consumer activities. Producers are looking for distribution opportunities and at the same time the consumption sphere is filled with 'leisure' and 'experiences'. The paper will shed some historical light on the new cathedrals of consumption, and notes that this metaphor is wearing thin in places. The concept of 'adjacent attraction' (Sennett) was helpful to analyze the importance of the new architecture of the automotive industries en to pinpoint the various marketing ambitions. The empirical material for this article came from our systematic observation of German cases. Also interviews were held with three architects who were involved in the design (Henn, Qua, Van Berkel) and with various representatives of the brands in Germany.

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