Every visit to the Mercedes-Benz Museum begins with a journey in a silver capsule. At entrance level, visitors board one of three futuristically designed lift cabins. The curved surfaces all round resemble the bodywork of an aerodynamically optimised Mercedes-Benz racing car from the mid-20th century. The doors close, then the cabin glides up the wall of the atrium to a height of 35 metres. Two oval surfaces shine downwards, rather like the headlights of a classic car. The lift cabins are time machines: at the top, passengers arrive in 1886, the year the automobile was invented. The tour of the Museum begins.
The journey into the past takes 25 seconds. Each cabin of the lift system built by thyssenkrupp carries up to 25 people. On a busy day with more than 4,000 visitors, the three lifts will travel almost 44 kilometres, amounting to some 8,000 kilometres on 225,000 journeys in 2022. Extrapolating these figures, the three lifts together have made about three circumnavigations of the globe since the Museum opened in 2006.
Shiny silver metal on the outside of the cabins and Alcantara padding on the inside ensure a high-class ambience. The lighting is soft and glare-free, emanating from transparent surfaces in the floor and roof. The lift cabins are absolutely unique as they were designed especially for the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
Through a wide panoramic window, the visitors are treated to a view of the opposite atrium wall and the Legend rooms, as if looking through a windscreen. With an additional cinematic experience: during the ride, short videos can be seen on the wall surfaces. They come from projectors installed in the top of the lift cabin. This means that the moving images are always projected at exactly the same height as the cabins. The display uses 30 various details from historical photographs to illustrate the brand history of Mercedes-Benz. The scenes range from production to motorsport. The visual experience is accompanied by the sounds of vehicle engines from the history of mobility.
In the opening year 2006, the architects of the Mercedes-Benz Museum, Ben van Berkel and Carolin Bos from the architectural firm UN Studio, described the interaction of the lift rides and video projections as a moving work of art: “When the three elevators perform this dance simultaneously, the atrium with its massive concrete arches is alight with flickering colours.”
Passenger lifts normally travel in a shaft that is not visible from the outside. In the Museum’s atrium, however, the elaborately designed cabins glide up and down the walls and are fully visible. The result is an impression of airy transparency. The 14 cables that move the cabins and counterweights are also visible.
The three lifts take on a special role during the current special exhibition “Moving in Stereo – Highlights of the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection”, which the Mercedes-Benz Museum is showing until 11 June 2023. Artist Florina Leinß created her “drops” work especially for the Mercedes-Benz Museum. It consists of coloured, translucent foils on the cabins, on the guards around the lift pits and on the counterweights. “drops” places the lifts and their infrastructure in a new aesthetic context during the special exhibition.