Aidan Imanova speaks to Adrian Caddy, founder of London-based Greenspace, who designed Toyota’s biggest and most interactive showroom in the world.
Al-Futtaim Motors has opened the largest and most advanced Toyota facility in the UAE – a five-storey, 14,000m2, 3S (sales, service and spare parts) centre in The Wave building, a dynamic structure located in the Musaffah industrial area in Abu Dhabi.
When it came to choosing a company to turn the empty shell of the building into Toyota’s most high-tech showroom and sales offering, they looked no further than Greenspace, a London-based firm which has a history of working with Toyota Motor Europe and other automotive retail brands.
Adrian Caddy, founder of Greenspace, says its history with Toyota helped the team build “a point of view about what the aesthetic should be for the interior design”.
“What is interesting about a project like this, in this part of the world, is that you have a lot of architecture that is striking and dynamic and very imposing on the landscape – it makes a very powerful statement. So when we came to look at the facility for the first time, we tried to imagine how we could turn it into a home for Toyota and I think one of the first challenges was working out how to make it look and feel like it had always been planned to be a home for Toyota,” says Caddy.
But before turning their attention to the design details, Greenspace was challenged with the enormity of the space itself, which is a lot of ground to cover for a visitor wanting to buy a car.
“The first thing we had to do was consider the layout and really work on engineering a circulation system into the building that would facilitate people to walk around comfortably and in a natural way,” Caddy explains.
“We ended up putting in six escalators and a couple of very long travellators as well to make it as easy and comfortable for people as possible and to create a more natural circulation.”
Caddy says that the customer journey and the nature of different interactions were the main inspirations for the interiors and features of the building.
“I think the tradition with car showrooms is to make a nice big space, fill it with cars and put lots of graphics and point of sale around to tell you the features and prices. We really wanted to move away from that completely.”
Greenspace, which is fast becoming very digital-focused, turned on technology and digitisation in order to create the kind of customer experience it visualised for the ideal Toyota customer.
The entire building has no reception desks, instead staff accommodate visitors with iPads. Digital screens have also been installed on the ground floor providing menu options and pointers on the various features that can be found on different floors.
“When thinking about the interior design, the impression we set out to create was one of a minimalism, clean and with minimal lighting that would off-set the cars and make them look like jewels standing on the floor. We tried to approach the design in a very simple and consistent way,” Caddy explains.
The floors are divided by colours to create a sense of zones without putting up any walls. The white areas are dedicated for walking while the grey areas are reserved as exhibition space for the cars.
“The ceiling and the floor planes are pure white. The ceiling is created from white vertically suspended ceiling fins that run laterally across the space in line with the floors. I think there is 20km of these fins. We have used a lot of that type of material across the project.
The wave-like curvature of the low ceiling mimics the undulating waves of the exterior façade of the building, creating cohesive identity.
One of the elements of the interior design that truly stands out is the sense of consistency. This can be seen through the repeated shapes and colour scheme.
“There is a reason the building is called the Wave – people see this very dynamic building from the outside but I think if we carried that inside it would have been too much. Subtle hints with contours give it a fluidity so you do feel the connection between the inside and outside but it’s not overdone,” Caddy explains.
The Wave has various stand-out areas within the space. One of these is the Toyota Design Studio where customers can build their dream Toyota using physical and digital design tools, a large HD screen displaying the car as they go along. Visitors are free to choose their colours, interior trim and materials. Caddy describes this area as a “fully digitised experience”.
In the Play Space, children can drive electric cars on a 100m indoor track, in addition to 3D printers for live printing of souvenirs, a toy-building area and VR headsets for a gaming experience.
“We put changing lights [in that area] to make it more fun and to define the children’s area from the others. Family members can sit and hang out on the red seating tribune that is designed to be a bit of a gallery,” Caddy describes.
With the café area, Greenspace wanted to bring some warmth by using wood, but in a way that is contemporary and consistent with the rest of the space.
The main challenge on this floor was connecting it to the two-storey warehouses where the Service Centre is located, a separate structure from the five-storey showroom building.
Travellators surrounded by arches of lights was the solution to connect the two spaces, creating a sinuous continuity. In the Service Centre, consultation rooms are sited on opposite sides of the walls. From this area, customers can also view the workshop space where the cars are being serviced.
The Toyota Handover Lounge also allows customers to receive new cars in a private lounge space and drive away through a dedicated departure lane.
“There isn’t too much design here,” Caddy explains.
“Often in a place this big you think you have to fill it with design thought, but actually it worked here to be simpler and quite uniform.”