Performance driven

Mercedes-Benz's new showroom nestles snugly into its niche locale. A glass insert encloses an internal street and houses signage visible from an overhead freeway
Story by: Charles Moxham
Rough-caste concrete, with pattenering to suggest the bored-formed architecture, floor, flooring, furniture, wood, gray
Rough-caste concrete, with pattenering to suggest the bored-formed concrete of the existing buildings, provides a contrasting backdrop to the sleek, moulded surfaces of the Mercedes-Benz cars.

An internationally esteemed brand will often create a platform of showroom prerequisites and standards to conform to. But environment can impose a few design imperatives of its own, and fortunately with a forward-looking client rules can be bent, if not broken.

Mercedes-Benz's recent design agenda for all its new showrooms provided a response to clear, expansive sites. However, when Huntsman Architectural Group designed the San Francisco showroom, a tight location meant adjustments to the blueprint had to be made.

Large, open-plan spaces, upsized furniture and colourful, freestanding plaster wall signage were all part of the blanket showroom guidelines, says Huntsman Group's director of design Mark Harbick.


A concrete projection draws attention to an opening architecture, daylighting, door, facade, home, house, window, gray
A concrete projection draws attention to an opening that provides views to the internal street below.

"However, our site was modest, surrounded by buildings and had a freeway arching overhead," says Harbick. "An individualistic answer was required and luckily Mercedes-Benz came to the party."

The new building incorporates services and offices as well as a showcase for Mercedes-Benz's finest. The architects drew together five existing buildings in the semi-industrial location, with glasshouse-like insertions bridging the gaps. Retaining the existing buildings helped keep the showroom in scale with its surroundings. The transparent insertions provided a visual point of difference and showed off the cars to best effect.

"Instead of one massive space, the cars are show-cased in compartmentalised spaces," says Harbick. "What had been a lane between buildings has become an internalised street evoking the whole driving ethos and providing a vantage point from which pedestrians can window shop the high-tech machines through giant apertures punched through the walls on both sides."

The new Mercedes-Benz San Francisco showroom and service architecture, building, commercial building, corporate headquarters, facade, home, mixed use, blue
The new Mercedes-Benz San Francisco showroom and service facility is comprised of exsiting buildings joined by glass insertions

As a response to the gritty surroundings, and echoing the material of the existing buildings, new wall surfaces are in rough-cast concrete not unlike the novelty of a street actually climbing the walls.

Space issues required Huntsman Group to avoid the internal branding wall of the original Mercedes-Benz agenda, subsuming the orange branding colour required into the vivid customer seating. In turn, the scale of seating was brought down, while still using the same furniture manufacturer the client had stipulated.

"Signage was also an issue, with height and billboard limitations in the area," he says. "We circumvented the problem by creating a permissible skylight complete with an internal billboard that reached higher than the adjacent rooftops and was visible from the freeway."

Mar 28, 2008

Credit list

Architect
Huntsman Architectural Group, project team – Daniel Huntsman, Mark Harbick, AIA, IIDA, Bill Hansell, Robin Bass, LEED AP, Rex McLean, Krystal Kavney, LEED AP, Assoc. LLDA, Anita Rick, Rene Calara, Bert Ayers
Land-use attorney
Reuben & Junius
Acoustic engineer
Charles Salter Associates
Land surveyor
Martin Ron
Lighting design
Huntsman Architectural Group
Interior wall finishes
Exposed concrete, gypsum board
Structural glazing and exterior cladding
CS Erectors
Reception desk and signage
Merecedes-Benz USA
Window shades
Mechoshade
General contractor
Plant Construction
Structural engineer
Murphy Burr Curry
Electrical consultants
Decker Electrical
Civil engineer
KCA Engineers
Flooring
Premier tiles by Autostone; Minimalism carpet
Audiovisual
Charles Salter & Associates
Water feature
Custom design by Huntsman Architectural Group
Reception seating
Steelcase
Ventilation
Anderson Rowe and Buckley
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