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BMW high-rise turns 50: The largest four-cylinder is in Munich

BMW is known for its six-cylinder, but manages the group from a four-cylinder. Now the skyscraper in Munich is 50 years old. Construction was completed in 1972 for the Olympic Games.

In the 1960s, the BMW administration in Munich was bursting at the seams. Therefore, the BMW Board of Management decided in 1966 that a new head office was needed. A suitable area was found on the outskirts of the BMW plant in Munich. A representative but also flexible office complex was required. Eight planners entered the architectural competition. The choice fell on the almost 100 meter high, futuristic "hanging construction" with four cylindrical main elements by the Viennese architect Professor Karl****. In December 1968, the BMW company management commissioned the construction of a new corporate headquarters.,

The BMW high-rise and the adjacent museum complex not only mark the high point in the life's work of the Viennese architect Karl Schwartzer, but also set new standards in the early 1970s standards in the field of modern office architecture.

Unbelievable: ready on time and at a fixed price

The high-rise complex, affectionately known as the "four-cylinder", was built between 1970 and 1972 in just 26 months. The topping-out ceremony was celebrated on December 7, 1971. In July 1972, two years after the start of construction, the external appearance of the entire building complex, the outdoor area and the planting were finally completed. Just in time to present itself for the start of the Summer Olympics in August 1972. The BMW Group headquarters, officially inaugurated on May 18, 1973, have become an integral part of the Munich cityscape. The corporate headquarters and museum have been listed since 1999.,

The construction took 3.5 million hours of work from 500 construction workers and 200 architects, engineers and draftsmen from twelve nations at the time. Today, employees from over 104 countries work in the shadow of the four-cylinder in the BMW plants. As part of the new building ensemble, the cloverleaf-shaped high-rise building is the highlight and the center. It reaches a height of 99.50 m and thus the maximum building height specified in 1968 in downtown Munich, which was based on the height of the towers of the Munich Frauenkirche of 98.60 meters and was not allowed to exceed 100 meters. The division of the 22 floors consists of 18 office floors with two management floors, four technical floors, the ground floor and a basement. The facade elements manufactured using the Japanese aluminum casting process make the four-cylinder particularly striking – a first in Europe at the time. From today's point of view, it is also hard to believe that the four-cylinder was completed at no more than the fixed price of 109 million Deutschmarks and in time for the 1972 Summer Olympics.

Logo dispute with the city of Munich

For the roof of the high-rise building, Schwacher's concept envisaged the assembly of company elements on the support cross. In the opinion of the city of Munich, however, this was considered too striking in its effect, which is why the city generally did not agree to the affixing of a company logo and a legal dispute started. However, at the beginning of the Olympic Games, the then CEO Eberhard von Kuenheim had BMW emblems made of canvas attached to the east and west sides of the building's attic at a height of almost 100 m for "test purposes". Placing it on the west side was particularly important for promotional reasons, as it could be seen from the Olympic Stadium and was intended to attract the attention of visitors to the Summer Games. Attaching the company logo contrary to city regulations earned BMW a fine of over DM 110,000. After lengthy negotiations with the city of Munich, the group management was finally granted approval in autumn 1973 to permanently attach the BMW logos to all four sides of the attic. The four cylinders of the BMW high-rise do not stand on a foundation, but hang on a cross-shaped steel structure on the roof. For the construction of the building, this meant that the building did not grow from the bottom up, as is usually the case, but the upper floors were built first. The four cylindrical parts were created on the ground, moved up hydraulically and completed in several segments. The four cylinders, each with 19 floors – including a technical floor (the slender indentation in the middle of the building) – hang from the central core, the “high-rise shaft” made of reinforced concrete on a massive foundation, on four huge “cantilevers” that rest crosswise on top of the shaft . The enormous tensile and compressive forces are dissipated via truss girders made of reinforced concrete in a mezzanine in the upper third of the house and via vertical compressive and tensile supports along the outer facades - which makes the overall construction stable. This design and construction gives the BMW skyscraper a light and distinctive silhouette, despite the impressive size of the building and the weight of the hanging structure of 16,800 tons.,

Each floor consists of four circular segments in a cloverleaf arrangement. Most of the space is used as open-plan offices. Two corridors lead through the core of the floor in a cross shape and connect the individual departments with each other.

From 2004 to 2006, the four-cylinder was then technically extensively modernized without changing the appearance of the building. New windows, new elevators, improved fire protection and optimized ventilation were among the core elements. Around 1 work today.500 people in a four-cylinder.,


The BMW headquarters in Munich is 50 years old. With its revolutionary architecture, it is one of the absolute trademarks of the Bavarian metropolis.


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