German cities merrily compete for rankings. The German advertising metropolis is Hamburg, although this may pain the people in Düsseldorf. The capital of German cinema films is Munich. Front-runner in private TV production is Cologne. But one thing is clear: Stuttgart is the German capital of spatial communication. The fact that the people of Stuttgart themselves just talk about it in puritan modesty can hardly hide the concentrated competence.
People in no other place work as much on the design of science centres, museums, worlds of brand-experience, temporary and permanent exhibitions as they do here.
What is the reason for this? That is very simple: Stuttgart is not the hot spot of one single discipline. There is rather a vivid network of creators from the most different fields of specialization. There are numerous connections from brand communication to its creative neighbouring disciplines, especially to architecture as well as to design and digital technology. Stuttgart is the home of advertisers, architects, communications designers, multimedia and film artists, who do not only know their trade but who are also willing to share their abilities and knowledge with others to make a change. Not to forget the stage designers, whose excellent work contributes to the fact that the opera and theatre has been among the three leading venues of its kind for 30 years. In Stuttgart people combine spatial concepts and scenography with design and multimedia installations as in no other town in Germany.
Architects who break limits
The cooperation between designers of brand communication and architecture is especially productive. That is no wonder, as Stuttgart has a lot to be proud of in terms of architecture.
The south-western metropolitan area is one of the best places for training builders. Günter Behnisch not only went down in German architectural history with his buildings, like his drafts for the Olympic buildings in Munich (1972). The 86-year-old has also always considered architecture as a task of communication. He has left a deep imprint on the architects’ and communication scene. Frei Otto, Jörg Schlaich and Werner Sobek teach or taught at the “Institut für leichte Flächentragwerke” (institute for lightweight surface structures) of the university of Stuttgart. Only their airy, spectacular constructions of steel cables and glass made it possible to create uncountable prestigious and communicating buildings like the tent-like roof of the Olympic stadium in Munich or the station Lehrter Bahnhof in Berlin.
The border between architecture and spatial communication design is extremely permeable in Stuttgart. In search of new fields of work beyond groups of residential and office buildings, many an architectural office ventures to step into a world of brands or onto the stage of fair communication. The industry-forming works of Kauffmann Theilig & Partner (Mercedes-Benz) or Wulf & Partner (adidas Factory Outlet in Herzogenaurach) are especially successful examples. The engineers Jan Knippers and Thorsten Helbig, who both come from Stuttgart, too, were also involved in creating the roof over the entrance to the Expo of Shanghai, which measures almost one kilometre and spans the principal axis with elegantly suspended membranes and constructions of glass.
Communication experts and designers who think in three dimensions
The landscape of communication experts and designers who develop innovative brand and experimental environments in Stuttgart is second to none, both in terms of quantity and in terms of quality. On the one hand, there are a lot of nationally active showroom designers. Among them are Hans-Günter Merz and his office, who developed the showroom of the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart (opened in 2006) and the Porsche museum in Zuffenhausen (opened in late 2008), the Atelier Brückner, which re-designed the BMW museum in Munich, and us, the scenographers at Milla & Partner, who are responsible for the interiors of the German Expo pavilions in Shanghai 2010, Hanover 2000 and Lisbon 1998, as well as for designing the exhibition of the World of Steiff, the Siemens museum in Munich and in 2008, ThyssenKrupp’s IdeenPark, which is the world’s biggest temporary science centre with 40,000 square metres of exhibition space. Our colleagues at Totems (German pavilion in Zaragoza 2008) and the very three-dimensionally thinking designers of jangled nerves and design hoch drei also staked their claims on the Neckar. Young offices like space4 and LigaNova complement the scene. Approximately 50 per cent of the German productivity for spatial communication are probably in Stuttgart.
Opportunities for co-operation that take you further
Agencies based in this area can not only take advantage of the concentrated know-how in spatial communication but also of a fine and detailed structure consisting of all kinds of different creative services. Advertisers, communication experts, spatial or multimedia designers – whoever is carrying out a project can easily find a suitable partner in Stuttgart for realizing his project: from scenographers and designers to graphic artists, multimedia specialists and technicians, all on an international level.
Stuttgart is the home of real luminaries in the field of communications design. One example is the delightful, 85-year-young “giant in typography”, Kurt Weidemann, who penned the Mercedes-Benz logotype and the DB logo. The second generation of his students is active and well-known all over Germany: Büro Uebele and Strichpunkt Design. Strichpunkt has continuously been among the top ten of European design offices and is one of the creative agencies with the most awards in the world.
Inspiring multimedia know-how
Communications agencies in Stuttgart can draw on plentiful resources when it comes to putting their visions into practice. In this region there are more experts for digital communication and media design than anywhere else. This is not only due to the high concentration of financially strong clients. Renowned talent factories provide a high level, for example the Media University and the Merz-Akademie in Stuttgart, the Filmakademie in Ludwigsburg and the Hochschule für Gestaltung (University of Design) in Karlsruhe. An animated film scene has sprung out of the Kunstakademie (Academie of Applied Arts). In this scene, numerous companies have formed. The international Festival of Animated Film, the second biggest animated film festival in the world, featuring about 500 excellent films in the competition, is a highlight for inspiration and a reason for international exchange.
The permeability of disciplinary limits is decisive for the success of people like us who design meeting spaces. There is no other field of communication that has as many exciting overlapping contents with other specialist areas. Thanks to the high concentration of creative forces, we do not only find the suitable partner for every type of work in Stuttgart. In Stuttgart this permeability of disciplinary limits is as much part of the city’s culture as the multidimensionality in the minds. Perhaps the topography, which is unique in Germany, is instrumental in developing the spatial way of thinking from childhood: Someone who lives on, next to or at the bottom of one of the seven hills of Stuttgart, lives “spatial communication”.
The author, born in 1961, studied drama, psycholinguistics and turkology in Munich. After some freelance jobs for theatres, fashion shows and product shows, Johannes Milla joined the practical side of design: He has been the manager and co-owner of Milla & Partner since 1989. In 2002 he worked as a visiting professor for scenography at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (University of Applied Arts).