Honda Motor Europe, Bracknell

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It’s a rare but beautiful thing when the planets align. When the opportunity to write about amazing new interior schemes for both Honda and McLaren – now Formula 1 partners of course – came our way within hours of each other, we could scarcely believe our good fortune.

Now please don’t worry, we’re not about to go all Clarkson here. This story isn’t about cars, per se. It’s about changes in working culture, clever design and the future of a great brand.

141212HON-78Honda, which has grown to become number one in global motorcycle sales and a leading automaker, develops, manufactures and markets a wide variety of products, ranging from small general-purpose engines and lawnmowers, through to innovative cars and of motorcycles.

The Interiors Group were tasked with designing and delivering the 70,000 sq ft fit-out for Honda Motor Europe’s newly relocated European HQ in Bracknell. ‘The Reflex Building is owned by Reflex – the developer,’ TIG CEO Andy Black tells us. ‘A couple of years prior to Honda expressing an interest, we were approached to do a light-touch Cat A refit of a couple of the areas – it’s a huge development. Consequently our details were attached to the building and we’d be talking to Honda – along with just about every other design and fit-out company – for about three years before this happened. We go on very well with them and they always said they’d put us on the shortlist if they ever did anything.

‘We then heard that Honda were seriously looking – this was a real thing. We got back in touch and our timing was perfect. Honda used CBRE as the Project Managers and we were one of six firms on the shortlist.’

‘This was a huge project and, to be honest, to start with we weren’t sure about whether to peruse this as a design and build pitch. We knew Honda were looking for the right, good value solution and, as a result did decide to go for it – and actually decided that we’d throw the kitchen sink at it!

‘We were then shortlisted to one of three. Honda fell in love with our design – and design is of course subjective. I think we just happened to tick all the right boxes at the right time.’

The new Honda Motor Europe HQ provides its clients and associates with a working environment that fosters innovation, collaboration and communication. The Interiors Group was conscious of the heritage of the company and has cleverly integrated it into the design concept, portraying it in a way that helps the end user to understand Honda’s philosophy.

‘Honda is a very people-based organisation,’ Andy continues. ‘They were previously based in Slough – on the Langley roundabout – and what they wanted to do was find an alternative location while not necessarily having the same huge profile in terms of the property.

‘They wanted all their many divisions under one roof and we achieved this by sitting with their committee – which was circa 15 people – going through their needs, wants, desires and wishes, coming up with alternative ideas for the scheme and addressing the cultural differentiation. Honda is, of course, a Japanese organisation and the committee was made up of Japanese, British and European representatives of the company.

‘They very much knew what they required – they needed 70,000 sq ft with x-number of people, in this new location, by a certain date in time. And it had to be somewhere people wanted to be – after all Slough is a good few miles from Bracknell.

‘We ended up hosting a huge seminar over two days – we had every member of staff (Honda’s Associates, as they are referred to) come to the new building to see the look and feel of the new scheme. Both Honda and ourselves spoke about what the space would consist of and our aims and aspirations. We even presented two different schemes and asked the Associates to vote on which they preferred. The ‘winning’ scheme is the one that is now in place.’

Working with CBRE, TIG had been briefed by the client to create a modern design across three floors for its 600+ Associates to take the company into the future while honouring its history and promoting the key Honda values of innovation, culture and equality. The Interiors Group responded to the brief by creating a bright, open space, largely utilising cool colour tones; a classic monochrome with some added splashes of the powerful and iconic Honda red throughout. Linear lines and geometric forms are also applied to the interior, making the fit-out dramatic and aesthetically appealing.

The front of house area creates a journey for the visitor, with various mediums being employed to display branding with clever links to the company’s past. The open plan area has been zoned to suit the various departments and, wherever possible, brand identity has been introduced, such as utilising the structure and finishes to display the company philosophy in quotes from the company’s founder, Soichiro Honda.

The dramatic reception is a well-lit expansive space featuring a bright red backlit Honda logo behind a large desk. Shades of grey and white dominate the area, while a beautiful joinery art piece reads ‘Make the impossible possible’.

A feature ceiling, made from slatted timber in walnut, runs overhead in a slight curve, cleverly disguising the lighting, whilst setting a welcoming and relaxing tone for the cool and welcoming lounge area.

The office space is predominantly open-plan and features a mixed yet versatile programme of open plan desks, hot desking and discussion zones, along with individual meeting rooms and boardrooms. These act as a pivotal point where Associates from other areas of the building can congregate, interact and communicate.

141212HON-119-editedEach wing of the working area has been delivered with virtually the same design features. The use of walnut wood doors throughout the office creates an air of sophistication and quality, while a large meeting suite (for both external and internal meetings) sits within the space and has been designed with flexibility in mind. Bi-folding walls allow the three rooms to be easily adapted into a single auditorium. Standing height meeting tables with red trim are positioned off the main office floor, once again creating convenient spots for quick and impromptu team meetings.

A red corridor is designed to enhance the circulation between the open plan and the main boardroom reinforcing the bold colour identity of Honda.

Meeting suites and rooms all feature glass partitions and walnut timber frames and doors. Each room has an electronic booking systems and are fitted out with plasma screens for group presentations, recessed LED spotlights and strip-lights, which allow the user to control lighting options within the room.

A large, fully catered restaurant has been designed to provide a relaxing spot for Associates to socialise and refuel over a snack or meal with colleagues. Again the bold red of Honda is used as a statement to draw you into the main restaurant area in the form of a tapered bulkhead, contrasted against the black tiled wall. Bright green chairs provide a splash of colour, subtly separating the restaurant from the working environment.
Staff tea points throughout the office have been styled with the iconic red colour, this gives a contrasting look to the neutral coloured Bolon plank floor, which is used for all tea points.

‘This is vastly different from what they previously had,’ Andy tells us.

‘Slough was a culmination of what had been 20 years of expansion and change. Their finance department was even in a different building in Slough! Departmental relationships had gone out of the window some 10 years ago.’

‘They wanted to include as much hot desking as they could and they also wanted to get away from large individual desks and cellular offices as much as possible. This building allows all of those things whilst also fostering interaction and communication and addressing departmental adjacencies.’

Gordon Hunt, Property Manager, Honda Motor Europe Ltd, says of the scheme: ‘We are very pleased with the positive impression that the new interior provides to our visitors and guests, as well as giving all Associates who work in the building an environment that we can all be proud of. Moreover, the refit successfully showcases our strong heritage whilst still managing to look both modern and functional.’