The BMW Central Building and Plant in Leipzig, Germany, is a happy marriage between the project brief and architect Zaha Hadid's mastery of dynamic space. Movement is the building's raison d'être. The 27,000m 2 structure is essentially a link building between the simple industrial sheds that constitute the remainder of the 400,000m 2 production plant. Cars have to be transported from one shed to another and, in contrast with most German offices, the 500 office and production staff are encouraged to move freely throughout the space. Hadid has addressed both issues with customary theatricality. Where other competition entrants chose to hide the production line from view, or to dissect the plan, Hadid introduced elevated conveyor tracks allowing half-finished Beamers to glide overhead. The result is that the floorplan is left unobstructed. Aside from an enormous reception hall, where 2,000 people can gather at a time, this open-plan space is broken up by multiple level changes - office space is arranged in stepped 'cascades' - and complex geometries, creating an environment which reads more as an interior 'landscape' than as a conventional office space.
The building is expressed in a near monochrome palette of dark-grey stone floors and exposed concrete walls. The selfcompacting concrete bears the clear imprint of timber boarding, giving this normally austere material an unusually sensual feel.
Externally it is rather more discreet. Since it is surrounded on three sides, there is just one elevation. Entry is under a flying concrete bridge.
Jack Pringle Zaha does italic architecture. It's italic in section, it's italic in plan and it's italic in elevation. It gives the impression of speed. Here, it is very appropriate.
Joan Bakewell It's both grand and intimate, which is a clever combination. It's intimate in that people feel they belong to it, yet it's grandiose in its celebration of manufacturing. It suggests the most incredible intuition, which seems to merge effortlessly with all that technical expertise. And the vistas are wonderful. I'm always looking for vistas.
Isabel Allen It's diva architecture - deep sensuality but at this incredibly muscular scale.
The fit-out is a disaster, but the building's tough enough to take it.
Jack Pringle If you don't set up an architecture which is absolutely retentive it can accommodate the odd flaw. The space diagram is good - a café and market/ performance space at the foot of a totally connected ramped and cranked set of offi ce floor plates with the cars parading above on their gantries. It's advanced thinking which delivers what BMW wanted: staff interaction and total connection with the product. It's got real energy and excitement.
Isabel Allen There is something almost cathedral-like about the light. There are places that feel very dark, but once you've set up the sort of game that revels in the movement between gloom and light, it's very difficult to come in and argue, categorically, that the light levels are wrong. There isn't a clear-cut agenda and therefore you can't say she's failed.
Max Fordham Not all questions need rational answers. In fact, if somebody asked me to point to a building where natural light had replaced artificial light I'd find it very difficult. But I would say that this is about as good as it gets.
Jack Pringle It's very un-German. The Germans invented burolandschaft, yet German offices tend to be all about cellular office space. BMW have moved on from that.
Joan Bakewell This is all about communication.
Isabel Allen It's a total contrast to McLaren. The public spaces are full of movement and life. You can immediately see that the relationships are much more fluid.
Piers Gough It's about movement, speed, excitement - all the things the motor industry ought to be about.
Jack Pringle The allusions to motoring are all there, but they're a seamless part of the architecture. They're not gimmicks. The curved glass on the facade is windscreen glass. The bridge is like a motorway bridge.
Piers Gough I think the bridge is the weakest part. It's really very ordinary. Zaha only had one elevation to do and that bridge is clunky. If you think of the Scottish Parliament and all those ravishing elevations? Isabel Allen The Scottish Parliament has to engage with the thousands of people who pass it every day. BMW doesn't have any passing trade. You approach it by car and, given that everybody who drives up to it is going to go in, you could say that it's totally legitimate that all the delights are saved for the inside.
Subcontractors and suppliers Main contractor Arge Rohbau; steel works Max Bögl Bauunternehmung GmbH + co; fit-out and interior glass Jaeger Akustik GmbH + co; facade Radeburger Fensterbau/Schneider Fertigbau