Journal 10

Entry date: 18.10.16

Communicating with architecture

Architecture speaks. There’s a symbolic as well as practical reason for every choice of material, every part of a structure. In other words, architecture can send a message, and Polestar spaces are doing just that. Whether it’s a retail space, an event stand, or the new Polestar HQ, all spaces have been designed with the same aims. “It should be architecture which influences the way you walk, talk and feel,” says Pär Heyden, Polestar’s Head of Brand. “It’s not an environment in which you feel that you’re at home. It should sharpen your senses.”

It’s on the cars that these heightened senses should be focused. In these spaces the car is elevated, taking its rightful place as the centre of attention. Polestar cars are developed by car obsessives with a love of details. Less is more, and what’s left is flawless. The essence of the brand will be reflected in all places where Polestar meets with people, from exhibition stands to retail spaces.

And like all else Polestar, the inspiration comes from within. Pure, progressive performance is a mantra which covers everything Polestar, not just the cars. To ensure that this message is conveyed by everything bearing the Polestar symbol, the initial design of the spaces was done internally. No outside influences, no design by committee, no consultants.

The exhibition stands

The cars sell themselves, their technology and design are the main focus. No fluff needed, no bells and whistles required. The exhibition stands are a shining example of this principle in practice. From the Goodwood Festival of Speed, to the international auto shows in Europe and China, the cars’ presence is felt. The minimal Polestar stands were unique, oases of peace in the centre of the bustling events. They were designed to foster a sense of curiosity, to make people want to come in and explore the space. The design of the façade, for example, in that their narrow openings keep everything hidden from the outside.

Another welcoming aspect of the space was the ever-present attention to detail, which is even more of a necessity when dealing with minimalism. A focus on the details and minimalism go hand in hand, claims Polestar interior architect Rong Guan. “Instead of focusing on a lot of things, we’re focused on the details: instead of adding something more, you take away and turn your attention to what remains.”

Speaking of attention, there is plenty to grab the eye within Polestar event spaces, besides the cars themselves. A colossal golden counter with staggeringly precise edges runs the length of one wall, serving as a visual anchor once you enter the space (and providing some much needed storage). Then, there’s the seating. Gone are the overstuffed leather armchairs, those antiquated nap traps for many an exhausted car show attendee. In their place stand auditorium-style bench seats. More akin to what you would see in a senate house than a car show, these stands are egalitarian: everyone has an unobstructed view of the car. Not only that, it adds a soothing symmetry to the space. This was a new and invigorating take on the traditional auto show stand, and it was true to Polestar principles.

The retail spaces

The purity of purpose is clear. These spaces exist to support the cars themselves, not just the Polestar 1 but the upcoming Polestar 2 as well: they are the stars of the show, the heavy hitters, the ones that get top billing. And to provide this support, certain design decisions need to be made. Structures are minimalistic and monochrome, elevating the deliberately chosen materials while promoting a calm and thoughtful atmosphere. It’s truly bare bones: concrete floors, glass and metal walls, and the car itself. “We really need to step away from the traditional,” says Heyden. “It’s pointless to launch another car brand and do what everyone else is doing.” And no-one else is creating spaces that inspire awe.

One way in which these spaces are (literally) awesome, and depart from more traditional forms, are the interiors. Open, uncluttered, and modern, they more closely resemble a museum or art gallery than a dealership showroom. And like a museum, every item is placed with deliberation. An entire wall is given over to display, with glassed-in car components such as brakes and drawers housing colour and material samples. Beautifully crisp photos of dampers, rims and other components shine like stained glass windows in a cathedral built to the glory of automotive design. The Church of Polestar, if you will.

Which is actually quite an apt comparison. You can feel a sense of tranquillity upon entering a Polestar space. There are no screaming logos, no bellowing brand slogans, and no extemporaneous lifestyle messages. Polestar spaces are dedicated structures, temples to the worship of performance and design. The spaces facilitate a focus on the car; where you can geek out over every aspect of it, free from distraction.

Awesome indeed.

These spaces are also much more functional than an auto showroom: concrete floors to facilitate the movement of heavy objects, and atelier tables with rubber mats to provide a safe place for design samples. The functionality isn’t limited to the concrete, however. The atelier tables are also smart tables, enabling one to experiment with different car configurations virtually. Polestar spaces also make clever use of both augmented and virtual reality, allowing visitors to see the smallest details present in the cars. Walk around the car with a tablet, and components such as the brakes and the battery pop up on the screen with their attendant facts, allowing the visitor to explore the interior of the car without lifting more than one finger. The line between the virtual and the real gets thinner by the day, and Polestar spaces straddle it commandingly.

The production center

That covers where the cars are displayed, where they are introduced to and appreciated by the public. But what about where they’re actually made? In Chengdu, China sits the Polestar production centre, designed by Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta. The production centre will contain one of the most efficient car factories in the world, in addition to being the most environmentally responsible car manufacturing plant in China.

The campus will also include a customer experience centre featuring revolving technology and design exhibitions, and a dedicated test track staffed with Polestar experts. One truly unique attribute is the universally-accessible mezzanine, providing visitors with a safe place from which to observe the entire factory.

“We are building a Production Center that is a reflection of our brand. A facility that is modern, progressive, technically advanced and environmentally responsible. It will be an embodiment of Polestar”, said Thomas Ingenlath, Chief Executive Officer of Polestar. The Polestar production centre in China will demonstrate this mindset by offering a unique visitor experience, and the new headquarters in Sweden will symbolize the progression and innovation which are staples of the Polestar ethos.

Headquarters

Thomas Ingenlath has been heavily involved in the sketching leading up to the first architectural proposal for Polestar’s new headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden. Polestar’s brand team has collaborated closely with the architects at Bornstein Lyckefors, in order to create a building which embodies the essence of Polestar.

That’s not all. It also symbolizes the company’s position as the guiding star in the automotive industry. The white glass façade of “The Cube” shines brightly in the piercing Scandinavian sunlight, and the distinctive Polestar logo glows warmly in the Nordic night. Polestar HQ is a beacon, inviting all to follow in the relentless pursuit of electric technology performance.

Polestar spaces speak, and they have some awesome things to say.