The new Giltrap Group headquarters and prestige showroom for Aston Martin, Bentley and Lamborghini, is a precision-designed facility, which puts the spotlight where it belongs – on the vehicles.
Designed by Warren and Mahoney, the building at 119 Great North Road in Grey Lynn, Auckland is a mixed-use development that co-locates the Giltrap head-office team and sets the benchmark for ‘star car’ showrooms around the world.
Principal and lead architect Jonathan Hewlett says the project incorporates several global firsts within its design. “The challenge was to include these innovations while working within the parameters of each brand’s corporate identity.”
Three years in the making, the development is owned and partly occupied by the Giltrap Group. It features a 1500-square-metre, streel-level showroom, spread across the three brands, along with three commercial office floors above and four basement levels where the workshop, staff training areas and ample car-parking is located.
Moving away from the traditional model of a forecourt with administration offices set behind, every aspect of the customer journey is contained within the building envelope. The prestige marque line-up has a more immediate presence on the street, displayed as if in a retail window.
This ground-level showroom is designed as a gallery of automobiles and, as the shopfront to these luxury vehicles, it was imperative that it broadcast a premium message in keeping with the unique identity of each marque. “The showroom was conceived as three jewellery boxes with glazing that wraps around on the sides,” explains Hewlett. While it reads as a single entity from the exterior, internal finishes clearly distinguish each brand.
Low-iron glass ensures precision clarity of the viewing experience for passers-by. During the day, natural light floods into the space while at night, overhead and carefully placed floor lighting put the accent on the vehicles as art. “Already people have been pulling over to stop and stare at the cars,” says Hewlett.
To maintain the emphasis on the Aston Martin, Bentley and Lamborghini offering, the structure of the building is definitive yet unobtrusive. “We wanted a pure experience of the architecture, so the cars could be the talking piece,” explains Barrington Gohns, project architect. The design story centres on a large V-shaped concrete trusses that intersect with the showroom and offer structural support to the floors above. “For the trusses, we pumped the concrete into a mould from the bottom so that there would be no air bubbles,” says Barrington. “That way, we achieved a higher-quality finish.”
Echoing the beneath-the-bonnet, high-end specification of these star cars, the building aesthetic may appear simple and streamlined, but it’s the hidden details that count. Warren and Mahoney worked with performance lighting experts Targetti to develop bespoke all-in-one fitting for the lights, power, data and sprinkler systems. “It’s a slim-line servicing solution where all the customer sees is the outer casing of the light fitting,” says Barrington.
A seamless customer journey is central to the design. Clients drive in to the building off Great North Road, past the showroom and into an ‘internal street’ which provides an under-cover, secure way to navigate from the retail zone to the service areas. A number-plate recognition device alerts reception to their arrival. The architects collaborated with traffic engineers on the five curved concrete ramps between each floor which are meticulously planned for minimum car clearance. The curve profiles were tested in 3D vehicle tracking software and then constructed and installed on site with a laser scanner to ensure millimetre accuracy.
The underground workshop area includes 11 dedicated service bays that are viewable from above. “There’s a transparency of process, a little like in a surgical theatre,” explains Barrington. Customers can watch the technicians at work and staff training rooms ensure the latest global best practice is observed. To preserve the consistency of the clean-lined design, the bays are equipped with wraparound halo lights, hoists that are reticulated from below, as well as in-floor exhaust extractors. Barrington: “There is very little to clutter the visual experience of the vehicles and the raw state of the building’s structure.”
Design details that might go un-noticed but are essential to the flawless customer experience include the installation of an acoustic ceiling in the handover room. “This has the effect of filtering out other noise and puts the focus on the pure sound of the engine,” says Hewlett. Large glass slider doors provide access to the pre-owned showroom with a specific wheel mechanism rather than the customary brush system, so that tiny stones brought in by car tyres don’t get caught in the tracks.
Sustainable solutions were also integral to the plan and 119 Great North Road is the first building of its type on track to achieve a five-star Greenstar rating. The ongoing environmental performance will be assessed by the NABERSNZ certification programme. High-performance glass creates an efficient thermal envelope and smart technology means energy use is closely monitored. LED lighting is on sensors and switches to low or off when not required while a combination of natural and automated ventilation means the system is reactive to day-to-day conditions. In anticipation of the introduction of electric vehicles, provision has also been made for fast-charge stations on the showroom floor. Hewlett: “It was important that we future proof the design to be able to respond to developments in all three brands.”
Upstairs, the home of the Giltrap HQ is on Level 1 with two more floors of premium office space still to be leased. With the opening of a centralised on-site café, operated by Ripe, tenants and the public alike can enjoy the handsome company of world-leading automobile brands with a state-of-the-art environment as backdrop.
“The 119 GNR Building has exceeded all our expectations,” according to Michael Giltrap, the Joint Managing Director of Giltrap Group Holdings.
“Warren and Mahoney has produced a design which perfectly showcases some of the world’s most beautiful cars. At the same time it is the most technologically impressive and environmentally friendly building of its type in the country”
“For us this is the perfect combination: a building designed by New Zealand architects, for a New Zealand-owned company, which thanks to clever design and materials, is doing its part to look after the New Zealand environment.”