- Specialists in vehicle interior design
- Official opening in February 1998
- Research and concept cars become the main carriers of design ideas
Mercedes-Benz opened the Advanced Design Studio in Como/Italy in February 1998. The choice of location was deliberate, since as a source of inspiration in areas ranging from culture and lifestyle to design, fashion and architecture, southern Europe is second to none. This inspiration is crucial to developing interior design concepts for vehicles – and this is what the Advanced Design Studio in Como has specialized in.
“Looking back, the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio in Como has proved a success story,” said Peter Pfeiffer, head of Design at Mercedes-Benz, at an event in 2008 to mark the tenth anniversary of the studio’s opening. “This is where important interior design concepts are developed as ‘idea generators’ for the cars of the future. But Italy is also a direct source of ideas for Mercedes-Benz production vehicles.
Along with Irvine/USA and Yokohama/Japan, Como was the location chosen for the company’s third Advanced Design Studio. All three have the same objective: “Our goal is to try to predict social trends as far into the future as possible,” explained Pfeiffer. “In the ideal scenario, we would be setting these trends ourselves, since our aim is to create the world’s most desirable car in the eyes of each of our customers.”
New concepts require a feeling of space and inspiration. “That’s why for the Advanced Design Studio we needed a place where we could get on the trail of interior design trends of the future,” recalls Mercedes-Benz designer Hans-Harald Hanson, the man now in charge of strategic design concepts in Sindelfingen. He developed the studio in Como, with all the aspects of planning and administration that entailed, and for the first two years was its director. Northern Italy is particularly well suited as a barometer for top-quality lifestyle ideas. “The Como-Milan-Turin triangle is home to the furniture and fashion industry,” says Hanson, explaining the reasons behind the choice of location. “Accordingly, high value is placed on traditional craft – making it an ideal environment for the Advanced Design Studio.” And there was another significant reason for selecting Como: Italy is one of the biggest markets for sales of “La Mercedes” – as the vehicles are more familiarly known.
The search for suitable premises got underway in June 1997. This would prove less than straightforward, however, since the building not only had to accommodate 15 to 20 designers, modelers, interior designers and engineers, all striving to give interior value to the cars of the future in a pleasant and work-conducive environment. There also had to be enough room to house full-sized vehicles, which meant, for example, wide doors and strong floors.
The choice finally fell on Villa Salazar, situated close to the banks of Lake Como, and at one time a production facility for Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace’s neckties and cravats. Indeed, reliable sources suggest that many of his designs were inspired by the frescoes that today still decorate the walls and ceilings of the villa which dates from around 1750.
Today Hanson is as enthusiastic as ever about the premises: “We made an excellent choice with the studio. In structural terms the villa is state-of-the-art. And with its contemporary painted ceilings, long suites of rooms and contrasting floors of terracotta and wood, the studio’s flair is extraordinarily inspirational.”