The Porsche brand has been synonymous with sports cars since the 356 was first put into production in 1948 and now, nearly 70 years later, the very mention of the brand quickly evokes images of speed and excitement. It was natural, then, that when Porsche Cars North America came to build a new headquarters, the results would never be dull.
Set in the north-east corner of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the 27-acre site features not only the sharp and modern design of the industry-first, four-storey building, complete with a Porsche restoration centre, a gallery displaying automotive art and classic cars from the firms past, event spaces and the ‘356’ fine dining restaurant, but also a 1.6 mile Driver Development Track that runs through the courtyard.
The circuit is divided into six separate sections: A basic handling circuit; an off-road course; a dynamics area where cars and drivers are subject to forces from many different directions at once; a low friction handling circuit, to test performance in slippery conditions; a low friction circle designed to get a car’s tail sliding; and the only Kick Plate in the US, a device built to unexpectedly send a car into a spin or slide and safely test how drivers handle it.
The Porsche Experience Centre, as it’s officially titled, was opened on 7th of May this year at a cost in excess of $100 million. That’s the company’s largest ever investment outside of Germany, and the commission went to global architectural firm HOK, whose other credits include the National Air and Space Museum, Doha International Airport, the new Yankee Stadium and the new Wembley Stadium. Todd Bertsch, vice president and design director of HOK Atlanta said it was important that they, ‘… designed a building with the same high-energy feel and performance as Porsche automobiles’.
With a design that resembles something between a Brands Hatch hospitality complex and an air traffic control tower, the building makes extensive use of glass to allow workers to see down onto the courtyard and testing circuit. HOK stated that the building was designed to be LEED Silver certified, utilising its east-west exposures to eliminate glare and its north-south curtain walls make the most of natural light, while minimising solar heat gain.
Porsche Cars North America has used Atlanta as its headquarters for the past 17 years, so keeping the operation in town was an obvious choice, but this new facility brings many previously separate departments under the same roof, including Porsche Financial Services, Porsche Business Services and Porsche Consulting, which adds up to around 450 employees sharing space at the Porsche Experience Centre.
Conservative estimates say that at least 30,000 people are expected to visit the centre annually, including corporate groups, Porsche owners, performance car fans and prospective customers. The car manufacturer hopes that it will enjoy similar traffic at the other Experience Centres it has planned for the near future, in Los Angeles, Le Mans and Shanghai.