40 years of BMW Headquarters and Museum


“The biggest four-cylinder in the world – a landmark for the city of Munich alongside the Olympic Park. Ergonomically compact inside and clearly contoured outside, it is a boldly conceived experiment and a milestone in the history of architecture. BMW has created space for its expanding business with an administrative centre of the New Class.” (Internal memo, 1973)


Since its official opening on 18 May 1973, the BMW Group Headquarters has become an indisputable icon of architectural history and a permanent feature both of Munich’s skyline and of the company’s corporate image. In spring 2013, 40 years after its completion, a committee of experts voted the building complex designed by architect Professor Karl Schwanzer one of the 15 most spectacular corporate head offices. Alongside the office block nicknamed the “Four-Cylinder”, only one other company headquarters from Germany made it onto the shortlist drawn up by the EMPORIS web portal for building data and construction projects.

The BMW Tower and adjoining museum complex not only mark the high point of Karl Schwanzer’s architectural career, they also set new benchmarks in the field of modern office architecture in the early 1970s. The Viennese architect’s design combined an impressive façade with an innovative and flexible spatial concept, and in so doing laid the foundations for a new and enduring architectural philosophy at BMW. In accordance with the “built for communication” concept, Munich’s Four-Cylinder uniquely combines the pragmatic benefits of its administrative function with the aesthetics of architecture.

Schwanzer’s tower furthermore epitomises West German architectural design of the 1970s – innovative civil engineering projects which would have lasting stylistic influence. Given its identity as an engineering structure, the tower is one of the outstanding architectural achievements of its period and continues to fascinate and intrigue admirers to this day.

The BMW Headquarters and Museum complex was awarded listed building status in 1999 and for many years it has been considered a landmark of the city of Munich. And with BMW Welt, designed in 2007 by the internationally renowned architect Prof. Wolf D. Prix, the BMW Group created another must-see example of urban development for visitors to the Bavarian capital with an interest in architecture, technology, design and innovation.