Cars for Celebration

July 25, 2012

Photo: Matthias Leitzke

Photo: Matthias Leitzke

There’s cause for celebration in Wolfsburg, Germany, as Volkswagen Autostadt recently welcomed its 25-millionth visitor. The automobile attraction opened in 2000 and has more than doubled its annual goal of 1 million guests per year.

Autostadt is a one-of-a-kind, 40+-acre corporate visitor center at the Volkswagen Group's world headquarters in Wolfsburg. This ambitious attraction celebrates the company's brands, its fascinating history and its impact on world culture, from the "People's Car" to the "Love Bug" to the automobility of the future. Jack Rouse Associates was commissioned by the Volkswagen Group to provide the overall planning and design for many of the major attractions at this highly acclaimed facility.

The Autostadt development features an exposition-style corporate forum, an auto museum, showrooms, pavilions for each of the company’s many brands (including Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Seat and Skoda), an elaborate auto delivery center, several theaters, restaurants, shopping, a Ritz-Carlton hotel and other anchor attractions.

JRA’s specific responsibilities included master planning, exhibit design and project management within the development’s KonzernForum, KundenCenter and ZeitHaus. JRA also provided executive media production of several specialty film attractions, including an 8/70 large-format film, a 360° theater, a motion-simulator attraction, and a fractured-image multi-media walkthrough.

As showcased in our recent Value of Experiential Design blog series, Autostadt has supplemented and enhanced these permanent exhibits with self-produced, added-value attractions and seasonal programming. Whereas in winter, the campus of Autostadt transforms into an alpine landscape with an ice rink and toboggan run, this summer it's hosting “Bella Italia – The Italian Way of Life” in conjunction with its recently opened Porsche pavilion.

According to Autostadt’s website, the profile of the visitor has changed over the last 12 years. While this initial visitor base was largely local, today “nearly 60% of the tourists and more than 90% of those coming to collect a new car travel more than 80 kilometres to the Autostadt.” Sixty-two percent of visitors to Wolfsburg now name Autostadt as the primary reason for their visit. Autostadt has become with world’s leading new car delivery center, handing over 1.8 million new vehicles to their owners (over 170,000 last year alone).

But Autostadt has not only succeeded as an entertainment attraction and automobile superstore, it has also served as an economic development driver and leading employer for the surrounding region. Over 1,300 employees work at the attraction, its restaurants or the Ritz-Carlton. All of this adds up to big business for Wolfsburg: “The Autostadt captivates visitors from across Germany as well as from neighboring European countries and overseas,” said Autostadt CEO Otto Ferdinand Wachs on the attraction’s website. “Over the past few years we have far exceeded our annual target of around one million visitors. The Autostadt has also evolved to become a powerful economic factor for the entire region.”

And for one JRA staff member, Autostadt literally changed his life: "working on Autostadt was invaluable, and the project has a special place among all the ones I’ve worked on because it was the reason I got hired at JRA and came to the US from Germany,” said Bjorn Kemper, Senior Project Designer. “Seeing my first designs come to life and being able to walk through them when I visited Autostadt in 2000 was an unforgettable experience, and since my first cars were Volkswagens, it was great to design for VW.”

JRA wishes the staff of Autostadt our sincere congratulations on this significant milestone. Check back next week, as we travel to Kentucky to “drink up” the scenery and pop in on the progress of JRA’s newest brand destination.

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Meet the Team: Ron Bunt

July 19, 2012

Ron Bunt - Vice President, Production

Ron Bunt - Vice President, Production

Happy Thursday!  We hope you enjoyed our post on all of the sounds, colors and countries that filled our streets over the past two weeks.  We're back in the office now, and for today's Meet the Team segment, we're profiling Vice President of Production, Ron Bunt.

With over 25 years of diversified experience as a lighting designer, technical director and project manager, Ron Bunt brings a wealth of experience to his role as Vice President, Production. Ron effectively combines a practical business orientation with a unique theatrical flair allowing him to successfully undertake a wide variety of attraction and cultural projects. In all cases, Ron’s work is characterized by thoroughness and attention to detail.

Ron graduated from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, concentrating on lighting design for musical theater and opera. He worked as a technical director and lighting designer for organizations as diverse as the Michigan Opera Theater, Paramount’s Kings Island and Shell Oil Company. In 1980, he joined Smithall Electronics Inc. as a project manager. For the next ten years, Ron worked on projects around the world for clients including Norwegian Cruise Lines, Premier Cruise Lines, Holland America Lines, Royal Viking Lines and Commodore Cruise Lines.

Ron joined Jack Rouse Associates in 1990 as resident technical director and project manager. Since then, he has played a key role in managing projects such as the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum; The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center; the National Park Service Washington Monument Interpretive Center; the Intel Theater at America’s Smithsonian; and the Heartsong Theater at Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. His recent projects include serving as project manager for the NEW World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! in London.

Ron recently led JRA’s project management efforts for the development of the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi theme park, which opened in late 2010.

Next week, it's Project Spotlight: Throwback time, featuring the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology (MOST).

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The World Choir Games: A Golden Moment for the City That Sings

July 13, 2012

Clara Rice, Blogger-in Chief, here. Originally, I intended this piece to be an on-the-ground, investigative report of the World Choir Games – the largest arts and cultural event in Cincinnati’s history. But I quite literally got “caught up in the music,” so enjoy this post-Games wrap-up instead.

What are the World Choir Games? Most of us in Cincinnati had never even heard it before and had no idea what it would mean to the city when it was announced. To put it simply, the World Choir Games are the Olympics of choral music, bringing choirs from around the globe for 11 days of friendly competition and unity through song. Yesterday marked the closing of the seventh World Choir Games and the first to be held in North America.

A capacity crowd braved 100-degree heat to hear the SKH Lam Woo Middle School Choir perform on Fountain Square.

The Midwestern humility of many of my fellow Cincinnatians led them to wonder, why us? How did we best out 20 cities from around the world? Our artistic and cultural history (oldest choral festival in the Western Hemisphere, Tony Award winning theatre, internationally recognized Symphony and POPS orchestras, and the list goes on…), walk-able Downtown and recent burst of economic development and revitalization were all factors in our selection. So, on July 4th, American Independence Day, 15,000 participants, representing 365 choirs from 64 countries, descended on Cincinnati. They were greeted by 4,600 smiling volunteers, and a community that was cautiously optimistic that the Games would succeed.

Cincinnati's own Indian Community Choir earned a silver medal in Scenic Folklore...

...while Kearsney College Choir would take home the championship cup in the same category.  South Africa won more medals than any other country.

And succeed they did. The choirs competed in a total of 23 categories – everything from Barbershop and Show Choir (both included this year due to their popularity in the United States) to Music of the Religions and Scenic Folklore. And yes, as the pictures show below, even dancing shrimp, plate spinning and palm tree headdresses were not off limits. Judges gave their scores, medals were won, and champions crowned. Most flex-passes and Celebration Concerts sold out before the Games began, and the free Friendship Concerts held throughout the region were filled to capacity.

The Nankai University Choir from China had everything from dancing turtles and shrimp to spinning plates!

And the Show Choir costumes of the Orfeon Universitario Rafael Montano from Venezuela were akin to a Vegas nightclub act.

As a Downtown resident and Games volunteer, though, the most poignant moments for me were the unplanned ones that happened off stage. Choirs from around the world doing the “wave” at the Opening Ceremonies. The COTA Youth Ensemble from Namibia giving line-dance lessons to a group from Chattanooga in the Participants Lounge. Whirl, the World Choir Games mascot, riding in a pedi-cab. The Stellenberg Girls Choir from South Africa (which won 3 championships) singing “Schoscholoza” while walking down the street in front of my house. A Turkish jazz choir performing with a Cincinnati rock band on Fountain Square. Cousins (one from Israel and one from Cincinnati, both singers) getting to meet one another for the first time during the Opening Parade of Nations. And smiles. Lots and lots of smiles.

Gospelchor Rejoice from Germany posed for a quick pic outside the Award Ceremonies.  They would go on to win silver medals (which are apparently delicious) in both the Gospel and Spiritual categories.

A member of the Lagos City chorale posed with his new little friend on Fountain Square - perhaps a potential World Choir Games 2020 participant?

The COTA Youth Ensemble from Namibia breaks it down on the Participant Lounge dance floor.  They even taught me a few dance moves (those photos were conveniently misplaced).

I wasn’t the only one who got to don the yellow theme-park-employee-esque polo shirt. JRA Project Manager and recent London transplant, Eric Lee, also got a chance to join in the fun: “It has been a pleasure volunteering for the World Choir Games, and an honor to be part of the great community spirit here in Cincinnati,” said Eric. “The energy and vibe has been tremendous throughout, and I would certainly not hesitate participating in an event like this again.

Whirl and Twirl, the official mascots of the World Choir Games, greet the crowd at the Parade of Nations.

But don’t take our word for it. Here are some of impressions from the Twitterverse on the Games in Cincinnati:
• We are humbled to be a part of the World Choir Games!! An amazing experience for us all!! There are so many amazing choirs here! – The Aeolians of Oakwood University Choir – Alabama, USA
• “Cincinnati it's been a blast. You're a beautiful city and thanks for having us.” – Sunday Night Singers – California, USA
• Somebody please take me on a plane back to the [World Choir Games]. I'll do anything! – Phoebe Heveron – United Kingdom
• Cincinnati is the best city that I've ever gone to. Nice game Fair play! – Michelle H. – Semerang, Indonesia
• Thanks all [World Choir Games] volunteers. I've met many of them these days and thanks for all their help and smiles! – Dennis Wu – Hong Kong

But images speak louder than even these words, so enjoy these videos from Weeks 1 and 2 with highlights from the games, featuring “I Can”, the official song of the 2012 World Choir Games composed by nine-time Grammy winner, Kirk Franklin (I’d suggest getting out some hankies – you may need them).

The Voices of Latvia, champions of the Female Chamber Choir category, take the stage at the Closing Ceremonies, signifying the end of the Games in Cincinnati and the build up to the 2014 Games in Riga.

Tony-winner Idina Menzel sings selections from Rent and Wicked.

The Games ended Saturday night with as much grandeur as they began at the Closing Ceremonies, with Grammy winner Marvin Winans and Tony winner Idina Menzel leading over 11,000 people in “We Are the World.” It was a moment that this writer will never forget, and the perfect ending to 11-days of global harmony through song.

“Whenever we host out-of-town guests or clients –– whether from across the country or from around the world –– they are always surprised with the beauty of our city and the friendliness of our people,” says Shawn McCoy, VP of Marketing and Business Development. “The World Choir Games has been a wonderful opportunity to show off these attributes and showcase the city that JRA has been proud to call home for the past 25 years.”

Luckily, it won’t be long until the voices of the world return to Cincinnati. At the Closing Ceremonies, Mayor Mark Mallory announced that Interkultur, the governing body of the World Choir Games and international choral competition, announced that they would be opening their North American office right here in Cincinnati USA. What’s more, they have vowed to host another international choral competition in Cincinnati within the next 24 months.

I for one can’t wait to “hear” what comes next for Cincinnati.

Thanks for reading,


Yours truly with my new friend from Indonesia, a member of the North Sulawesi GMIM Male Choir.

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Patriot Projects, Part 3: A Pioneering Spirit

July 05, 2012

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Chisholm Trail Heritage Center - Duncan, Oklahoma, USA

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Greetings, and welcome to the conclusion of Project Spotlight: Throwback – Patriotic Projects. For those of you who celebrated yesterday, we hope you enjoyed a wonderful Independence Day!

There are few more romantic notions in the annals of U.S. history than that of the pioneer traversing the open plain in the quest of a plot of land and a new life, and few more examples of the nation’s can-do attitude than its unquenchable thirst for innovation.
The renovated Chisholm Trail Heritage Center features over 6,000 square feet of new exhibits and theatrical experiences that introduce visitors to the history and romance of the Old Chisholm Trail, the major route along which Texas cattle ranchers drove their herds north through Oklahoma to railroad points in Kansas.

Jack Rouse Associates first worked with this client on a concept and master plan. JRA then designed and produced the museum’s permanent exhibition, which provides a traditional historical exhibit environment where various artifacts within the museum’s collection are displayed.

Theatrical experiences also play a major role at this historical facility. In the Campfire Theater, guests are invited to sit around the campfire and learn about the harsh realities and romance of the Trail.  The main theater, meanwhile, features a dramatic immersive environment and multi-media presentation. Called “The Chisholm Trail Experience,” this production combines film/video, special effects, lighting and dramatic music to allow guests to experience a typical day and night on the Trail in the 1870s. Shot on location in Oklahoma, it features a cast of a trail boss, cook, cowboys, Native Americans and more than 400 longhorn cattle. As viewers watch the drama unfold, they can feel the wind, feel drops of rain, see the sunrise and sunset and hear the constant rumble of cattle moving along the trail.

Progressing from the era of the covered wagon, we end our journey with a visit to a museum that celebrates one of America’s greatest industrial achievements – the automobile.

Jack Rouse Associates master planned and designed “Journey to the Model T,” a new interpretive attraction for The Henry Ford, the nation's largest indoor/outdoor history museum. JRA worked with the client to craft an experience around existing buildings that highlights significant artifacts relating to Henry Ford's early life and development of the Model T. "Journey to the Model T" traces the story of the Ford Motor Company founder from his boyhood years on a farm in rural Michigan to his development of the first "people's car."

We hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part look at JRA’s patriotic projects. Next week, we shift to a global perspective, as Assistant Project Manager and Blogger-in-Chief, Clara Rice, offers a special report from the largest international and cultural event in Cincinnati’s history, the World Choir Games.

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Patriot Projects, Part 2: Embracing a Nation's Diversity

July 04, 2012

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Arab American National Museum - Dearborn, Michigan, USA

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Thank you for joining us for Day Two of Jack Rouse Associates’ three-part series on our patriotic projects. Today, we’ll visit two Midwestern museums that address the importance of diversity, the struggle for freedom and the need for cultural understanding.

Jack Rouse Associates designed and produced the overall guest experience for The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a world-class institution dedicated to fostering safe, open and honest dialogue on issues of freedom both locally and internationally. With a focus on experiential learning over artifacts, the Center is on the leading edge of a new generation of cultural centers called "museums of conscience."

The Freedom Center, which opened in 2004, includes an opening experience featuring three short animated pieces; an environmental theater experience narrated by Oprah Winfrey; and a walkthrough gallery that integrates artifacts, media pieces and immersive vignettes to trace 300 years of slavery on the North American continent. An area titled “Everyday Heroes” honors individuals who have taken a stand for freedom around the world and across time—heroes such as Harriet Tubman and Lech Walesa of Poland.

“The Struggle Continues,” the Center’s final gallery, educates visitors about ongoing freedom struggles and challenges them to consider whether they might have a role to play. The experience begins with an object theater that condenses 130 years of history into 10 minutes, featuring examples of “unfreedom” that extend into the present day. Visitors then pass through a corridor lined with real-time examples of present “unfreedoms,” categorized by topics such as modern slavery, hunger, tyranny and illiteracy. A series of interactives awaits next, challenging guests to ask themselves, “Where do I stand?” “How can I help?” and “What would I do?” in a variety of situations.

Traveling north to Dearborn, Michigan, we arrive at the Arab American National Museum. Jack Rouse Associates is honored to have provided master planning, exhibit design and overall project management for the exhibits found within the first museum in the nation devoted to Arab Americans, their cultures and experiences.

Spearheaded by the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), The Arab American National Museum highlights the many contributions that Arab Americans have made and continue to make in the United States. This groundbreaking facility has earned praise from local, national and even international media. The Toledo Blade called it, “impressive, breathtaking, and well worth a long drive, regardless of whether you are of Arab ancestry.” Said The Wall Street Journal, “The museum uses personal artifacts, skillfully distilled reminiscences and absorbing interactive displays to recount the tale of Arab immigration and accomplishment since the late 1800s. … It makes for a lively museum experience.” And USA Weekend named it one of “Six New Museums You Must See.”

Jack Rouse Associates worked with ACCESS’s network of experts to develop the story line, experiences and displays for the museum’s permanent exhibit. The exhibit is organized in four sections: Arab contributions to world culture; “Coming to America,” which tells how Arab Americans from a variety of eras came to live in the U.S.; “Living in America,” which talks about the customs, traditions and day-to-day experiences of Arab Americans representing a range of ages and occupations; and “Making an Impact,” which celebrates the contributions of Arab Americans in areas ranging from arts and entertainment to science and politics.

For our last post in this three-part series, we’ll journey to two museums that celebrate America’s pioneering spirit, and its quest for innovation.

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Patriot Projects, Part 1: Honoring Heroes By Design

July 03, 2012

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MacArthur Memorial - Norfolk, Virginia, USA

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In honor of the tomorrow's US Independence Day, we’d like to take this Project Spotlight: Throwback Edition to showcase some of JRA’s more patriotic projects. In a three-part blogs series stretching from the seafaring Atlantic coast to the dry, Midwestern plains, we’ll make a virtual journey of a thousand miles, celebrating the ideals of freedom, patriotism and discovery. On day one, we’ll visit a visitor center and museum dedicated to two of America’s military heroes.

JRA was honored to have been involved with The National Park Service Washington Monument Interpretive Center in Washington, D.C., which provided more than one million visitors with an in-depth look at one of the world's most famous landmarks during the restoration process of this national treasure.

Working in conjunction with Discovery Channel, The National Park Service and The National Park Foundation, JRA’s writers, designers, and producers were responsible for the complete planning and design of the engaging interpretive facility at the base of the Michael Graves & Associates-designed scaffolding system. The result is a rich journey through the history of not only the Washington Monument, but also Washington, the man and city.

JRA provided master planning, writing design and design coordination for another memorial dedicated to an American patriot – General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Set in a beautiful and historic complex, the memorial takes visitors on a journey from America’s Civil War to present day. The exhibits go beyond MacArthur’s life to tell a story deeply intertwined with American history. Features of the exhibit renovation include a re-creation of a World War I trench, a five-foot model of the PT boat that MacArthur used during his treacherous journey from the Philippine’s Corregidor Island and personal artifacts from the MacArthur family.

When honoring heroes such as George Washington and Douglas MacArthur, it is important to remember what these and other military greats throughout American history fought for – freedom.  Tomorrow, we’ll look at two projects that exemplify the ideals of personal liberty, religious freedom and cultural tolerance.

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