10 Strange Structural Engineering Marvels

Die Gläserne Manufaktur
You know you have an unusual factory when the New York Philharmonic wants to perform there. The orchestra incorporated original car parts from the VW Phaeton as percussion instruments during their rendition of 'Kraft.' © Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters/Corbis

When most people think of a factory, they envision a huge box of blah topped with pollution-belching smokestacks. In 2001, Volkswagen redefined the concept of car manufacturing when it opened Die Gläserne Manufaktur -- "the factory made of glass" -- to produce the Phaeton luxury sedan. The building sits squarely in the heart of Dresden, Germany, in the northwest corner of the Great Garden, defying city planners who said manufacturing couldn't exist side by side with urban culture and living.

Then again, Die Gläserne Manufaktur isn't your normal industrial megastructure. You won't find any smokestacks, earthshaking noises or toxic byproducts here. The factory's walls contain 290,000 square feet (26,942 square meters) of glass, which means the public can see everything that takes place inside [source: Markus]. No doubt they probably drool over the Canadian maple floors or wonder why the front lobby looks like an opera house. But there's no question of what's happening inside when they catch a glimpse of the various Phaeton parts, rolling along conveyor belts and awaiting assembly by the factory's robots and 227 line workers [source: Markus].

It just could be the factory of the future -- or nothing more than a conspicuous display of corporate transparency.