German engineers may be designing Volkswagen's new mid-sized sedan for the American market, but VW plans to use the ideas from dozens of Southern architecture students to design a signature part of its Chattanooga plant.
Auburn University students won a competition Friday for design of a pedestrian bridge that Volkswagen will build between its employee parking lots and the $1 billion assembly plant taking shape in the Enterprise South Industrial Park.
Volkswagen officials said they won't use the exact Auburn design, which features a "Think Tall" tower to play off of Volkswagen's "Think Small" ad campaign. But VW architect Jan Spies said the winning design and the other 37 proposals submitted in the competition gave company designers lot of strong ideas to build upon for the plant entrance.
"As an exercise to generate fresh, creative design ideas, the competition was very successful," Mr. Spies said. "I would expect to incorporate many of these ideas in our final design."
The bridge will span the Poe Creek and connect the employee parking lots and training center with the 1.9 million-square-foot assembly plant.
The Auburn design envisions an elevated tower to support the 700-foot span and showcase the Volkswagen logo above the plant.
Auburn University students Michael Glenboski and Dylan Cook drafted the winning design.
"Our bridge is actually two flat spans and the vertical circulation between those bridges comes from a vertical tower that becomes a kind of iconic symbol and advertisement for Volkswagen that says they are here and inviting to visit," Mr. Glenboski said.
The head of the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, Frank Fischer, said the designs submitted by students from a half dozen Southern universities "exceeded our expectations." Mr. Fischer said the pedestrian bridge will be an important visible sign of the link between Volkswagen and Chattanoogans.
"No only does the bridge physically connect employees and visitors with the plant, it symbolically connects Volkswagen and the community," he said.
Mr. Spies said VW has not previously turned to local universities for building design ideas, "but nowhere else where we are have I sensed as much of a connection with the community."
* Auburn University "Think Tall," first place
* UT-Knoxville, "VW community bridge," second place
* Georgia Tech, "The Weather Vane," third place