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Volkswagen's 'Transparent Factory'

Die Gläserne Manufaktur in Dresden, Germany

VW Transparent Factory photo

ABOVE: The Transparent Factory at night. INSET BELOW: A Phaeton body shell rides an overhead conveyor, and a finished car cruises through Dresden.

Modern factories tend to be dreary places, with windowless walls of cinder block or sheet metal and open floor areas that can be switched from widget-making to doughnut-baking as the market and corporate takeovers dictate.

Phaeton assembly line photoVolkswagen's "Transparent Factory" or Gläserne Manufaktur in Dresden is a notable exception to the rule: It's a place of beauty where small teams of workers assemble the Phaeton, Volkswagen's luxury car, in a purpose-built facility that looks more like a Scandinavian conference center than an industrial plant. (The architect, Dr. Gunter Henn, also designed Volkswagen's Autostadt in Wolfsburg.)

The Transparent Factory occupies an 8-.3-hectare or 20.5-acre site on Dresden's Strassburger Platz, next to the Botanical Gardens and within walking distance of the city center.

The glass-walled, L-shaped production facility is adjoined by a Studio where Phaeton buyers can choose options and materials for their custom-built cars and a Customer Lounge where they can pick up their finished vehicles.

A Visitors' Forum is open to the public for tours, concerts, and other events; it also has a Phaeton driving simulator and other exhibits. The Transparent Factory even has a café, bar, and restaurant.

At its heart, of course, the Transparent Factory is just what its name would suggest: a place to make automobiles. It was designed specifically to produce the Phaeton, Volkswagen's top-of-the-line luxury car. Die Gläserne Manufaktur was--and remains--both an assembly plant and a showplace for the Phaeton concept, aesthetics, and technology. It's a fitting addition to a state (Saxony) that has a long industrial tradition and a city (Dresden) that is known for the beauty of its architecture.

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Photos copyright © Volkswagen AG.

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