#DrivenBy: Lars Niehaus
The Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM Team hospitality suite is always at the heart of the paddock. But how long does it take to set up? And what is the design concept that the team adheres to? Questions to which Lars Niehaus knows the answers. He is the team architect in charge of event buildings such as the hospitality suite. His responsibilities range from the conceptual stage, including the graphic design of the key visuals, through to realisation, i.e. construction management at the race venue.
“The biggest challenges are always the deadlines on the calendar and reconciling conflicting demands,” he says. In addition to staying within budget, this includes adhering to the schedule set for implementation. “Consequently, you don’t have many options for considering alternatives,” explains Lars. He has been fascinated by motorsport since childhood: “I’ve always enjoyed watching motor racing. When I went shopping with my mum, I was constantly pestering her to buy me car magazines.”
In his capacity as event buildings manager, he is now able to combine his enthusiasm for racing with his passion for architecture: “I’ve always taken great satisfaction in this combination of architectural and communication roles. As event buildings are generally erected for only a short period of time, we have the opportunity to develop them further and to implement new ideas. This means that our projects are not as static as in a traditional building context.”
Lars worked with the team to develop a new hospitality concept for the 2017 season. The first planning sessions took place in the third quarter of 2016 while the previous season was still underway. For this year, the basic concept has been loosened up to offer the fans more attractions in the paddock. The hospitality suite is now always in the middle of the paddock and has a publicly accessible area between the team and reception rooms. “We’ve set up a kind of fan zone there,” says Lars. This offers the fans different entertainments such as race simulators, a ‘Social Wall’ with updates on the major stories from the race weekend, and the opportunity to record video clips for sharing on social networks. “We also have a beer garden with a water bar operated by our team sponsor BWT. Spectators can chill out and rehydrate themselves here on very hot race weekends in the summer.” Everything revolves around the fans.
But of course, the more amenities that are on offer, the more work there is to be done in advance, ensuring that everything is delivered to the race venue and installed in time for the race weekend. “Normally, we start construction on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning, depending on whether the destination has hosted an event on the weekend before.” Lars was also responsible for setting up the temporary structures for Stars & Cars in the Mercedes-Benz Arena Stuttgart.
At the Norisring, the construction works begin a week earlier, as the street circuit around the Dutzendteich lake in Nuremberg is only temporary in nature. Other exceptions are the opening and closing races of the season at Hockenheim. “For those two weekends, we also construct our Erlebniswelt exhibition next to the Mercedes grandstand,” says Lars. “That’s why we start work on Erlebniswelt two weeks before we turn our attention to the paddock.” Then all hands can be applied to erecting the hospitality suite in time for the race weekend, thereby ensuring that the fans enjoy the complete DTM experience.