Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Irvine, California

Kia Motors may be South Korea's oldest car company'it was established in 1944 as a manufacturer of bicycle parts'but traditional thinking is not what makes it an industry leader. The company's Research and Development Headquarters in Irvine, California, designed by the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), proves Kia's commitment to design and the U.S. market, where sales have increased by 77 percent since 2008, when the project was completed.

'Both our company's vision and design philosophy are the context for what Kia wanted to project to our team members and to the public,' explains John Yoon, Kia Motors America vice president and general counsel. Simple, efficient, and environmentally sound, the buildings provide generous space for work in a logically organized campuslike setting.

Located on the main expressway into the city of Irvine, the project encompasses a pair of straightforward two-story, tilt-up concrete buildings'one 230,000 square feet and the other 71,687 square feet'connected by a third-level glass bridge that floats over a reception gallery/automobile showroom. The entry plaza extends south along a double-height glazed wall that reveals the Design Center, which features a cantilevered, perforated steel-mesh canopy that shades the lobby within, yet still admits daylight.

Designed to accommodate myriad functions, the complex includes administrative, technical, multipurpose, training, and gallery spaces, as well as indoor and outdoor presentation areas and parking. The Design Center is most prominent. Here, Kia's overall aesthetic philosophy, which emphasizes 'the simplicity of a straight line,' is exploited by an elongated series of spaces supporting design, presentation, and modeling programs. Adjacent to these 'shops' are rooms for the high-tech presentation and display of car designs in progress.

Adhering to California's Title 24 requirements, the city's development guidelines, and the client's request for a sustainable facility, the architects brought sunlight into the interior with skylights and roof openings that also provide vertical clearance for specialized equipment. They installed LED, T8, and T5 lamps controlled by occupancy sensors, and covered both buildings with a reflective elastomeric coating that keeps the roof cool to minimize heat gain inside. Outside, an extensive bioswale filtration system in the parking area removes silt and pollution from surface-water runoff. Drought-resistant plants enhance the landscape. 'We tried to relate to the work culture and climate in Irvine by bringing abundant daylight into the interior spaces, opening up the lobby to naturally ventilate the display and gathering space, and providing interior courts and adjacent gardens for a connection to the outdoors and surrounding landscape,' says Brian Lee, design partner at SOM.

The new campus is a commanding presence for Kia. Certainly there are other factors involved in the company's significantly improved U.S. sales figures, but credit must be given to the company for embracing a vision where design is paramount and workers feel linked to their environment. 'Cars are changing from just being a mode of transportation to a new space that connects people to their families, work, and society,' says Yoon. 'Our facility in the U.S. exemplifies this new space philosophy.'

Ingrid Spencer is a contributing editor for RECORD.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
224 S. Michigan Ave. #1000
Chicago, IL 60604
Phone: 312.554.9090
Fax: 312.360.4545

Completion Date: 2008

Total construction cost: $51.9 million

Gross square footage: 297,130 sq. ft.


Kia Motors America

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
224 S. Michigan Ave. #1000
Chicago, IL 60604
Phone: 312.554.9090
Fax: 312.360.4545

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Brian D. Lee, F.A.I.A. – Design Partner, Gene Schnair, F.A.I.A. – Managing Partner, C. Keith Boswell, F.A.I.A.  – Director, Eric. R. Keune, A.I.A. – Director, David Diamond, A.I.A. Associate Director, Marjorie Platzker, Michael Gale, Philip Snyder, John Kuchen, Steven Drucker, Liz Valadez, Torsten Keifer, Ayumi Sugiyama, Neda Ruhripuhr

Interior designer: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Engineer(s): Nabih Youssef & Associates (Structural Engineer); RBF Consulting (Civil Engineer); Tsuchiyama Kaino Sun & Carter Consulting (Mechanical Engineers); FBA (Electrical Engineer)

Landscape: Tom Leader Studio – Designer, Melendrez Studio – Landscape Architect of Record

Lighting: PBQA – Patrick B. Quigley and Associates. Lisa Piana, Designer

Acoustical: Shen Milson Wilke

General contractor: Ph. I - Snyder Langston, Ph. II – AMCO/Gray ICE

SOM | © Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai
SOM | © Fotoworks
SOM | © Julius Shulman
© Kia Motors

Renderer(s): Crystal Image, SOM

CAD system, project management, or other software used: AutoCAD, Revit



Structural system
PH 1: Tilt Up Concrete (perimeter) with Long span open web joists and steel columns
PH 2 : Tilt Up Concrete (perimeter) with steel structural columns and steel joists

Exterior cladding
Phase 2:  Tilt Up Concrete by Division 3 Construction Services  

Metal Panels: Phase 1:  8 Ga Perforated Aluminum Panels
Plant Phase 2:  Canopy Ceiling:  8 Ga Aluminum Perforated Panels Fabricated by Nelson

Metal/glass curtain wall: Phase 2: Master Glass Co.

EIFS, ACM, or other: Phase 2:  Densguard Gold Sheathing

Moisture barrier:  Phase 1:  Tremco 
Phase 2: Grace Perm-A-Barrier

Curtain wall: Phase 2: Master Glass Co.

Built-up roofing: Phase 2:  Gaf Gafglas Built-up roofing

Elastomeric: Phase 2:  HydroStop

Metal:  Phase 1 & 2:  Fry Reglet

Metal frame: Phase 2: Master Glass Co.

Glass:  Phase 1:  Insulated Glass: Viracon. Interior glass: GlassPro  
Phase 2:  Old Castle Glass

Phase 2:  Horton

Metal doors: Phase 2: Door Components Inc.

Wood doors: Phase 2:  Haley Architectural Doors

Fire-control doors, security grilles: Phase 2: Door Components Inc.

Special doors (sound control, X-ray, etc.): Acoustic Doors by Kreiger Specialty Products Co.

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: Phase 1:  Decoustics, Armstrong 
Phase 2:  Ecophone Tile Panels, Decoustics Fiberglass panels, Ceilings Plus Perforated Metal Panels, Armstrong Ultima Tegular Tile Panels

Suspension grid:  Phase 1:  Armstrong “Silhouette XL”, Chicago Mettalic 3500 series  
Phase 2:  Armstrong “Silhouette XL”

Demountable partitions: Phase 2: Operable Partition by Modernfold

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:

Paints and stains:  Frazee Paint, Dunn Edwards, Sherwin Williams

Wall coverings: Phase 1:  Wolf Gordon, Knoll

Paneling:  Phase 2:  Fabri Trak fabric wall panels, Knoll Fabric

Solid surfacing:  Phase 2:  Dupont Corian

Floor and wall tile: Phase 1 & 2 Toilet Rooms: Daltile

Resilient flooring:  Phase 1:  Azrock Flooring

Carpet: Phase 1:  Shaw Floors, Milliken Carpet, Bently Prince Street  
Phase 2:  Shaw Floors, Bently Prince Street

Raised flooring: Phase 1& 2:  Tate

Reception furniture: Phase 2: Reception Desk Fabricated by WB Powell, Inc.

Dimming System or other lighting controls: Phase 1:  Lutron

Elevators/Escalators: Phase 1 & 2: Mitsubishi

Accessibility provision (lifts, ramping, etc.):

Other:  Phase 2: Macton Vehicle Turntable

Phase 2:  Sloan Optima Systems Low Consumption Flushometers

Energy management or building automation system:  Phase 2: ACCO Engineered Systems