Kia Motors America Research and Development Headquarters
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
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
Completion Date: 2008
Total construction cost: $51.9 million
Gross square footage: 297,130 sq. ft.
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
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)
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
Renderer(s): Crystal Image, SOM
CAD system, project management, or other software used: AutoCAD, Revit
Metal Panels: Phase 1: 8 Ga Perforated Aluminum Panels
Metal/glass curtain wall: Phase 2: Master Glass Co.
EIFS, ACM, or other: Phase 2: Densguard Gold Sheathing
Moisture barrier: Phase 1: Tremco
Curtain wall: Phase 2: Master Glass Co.
Elastomeric: Phase 2: HydroStop
Metal: Phase 1 & 2: Fry Reglet
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.
Suspension grid: Phase 1: Armstrong “Silhouette XL”, Chicago Mettalic 3500 series
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
Raised flooring: Phase 1& 2: Tate
Accessibility provision (lifts, ramping, etc.):
Other: Phase 2: Macton Vehicle Turntable