The Automotive Office Space

Conference rooms in AutoTrader’s new offices are outfitted with car-window-shaped portholes that promote daylighting. (Photos: Nigel Marson)

The bold, loud design of AutoTrader.com’s award-winning Atlanta headquarters emphasizes heavy-horsepower movement at every turn

Whole floors of the office are done in green, purple, and orange—in keeping with AutoTrader’s bold, loud brand.
Whole floors of the office are done in green, purple, and orange—in keeping with AutoTrader’s bold, loud brand.

Much like the building of a car itself, the story behind AutoTrader.com’s award-winning headquarters in Atlanta is about the consolidation and connection of moving parts. Back in early 2009, the burgeoning company (an online marketplace for car enthusiasts) found itself growing too quickly, with its various departments spread miles apart across five locations. So, to bring operations under one roof, the company had plans drawn up in 2009 to completely renovate one of the towers at Perimeter Summit to create a new 400,000-square-foot, 18-floor office. The plans were finalized in the second quarter of 2010, and the new space is now nearly finished, with a forward-looking automotive theme that’s sure to propel the company further into the digital age.

Sources

RECYCLED CARPETING
Interface
interfaceflor.com

MODULAR WALL SYSTEM
DIRRT
dirtt.net

CONFERENCE-ROOM DIVIDERS
Skyfold
skyfold.com

ENERGY-EFFICIENT FIXTURES
Cooper Lighting
cooperindustries.com

ELEVATOR-LOBBY FLOORING
Stonhard
stonhard.com

ARCHITECTURAL MILLWORK
JD James, Inc.
jdjamescorp.com

“PISTON” BAR STOOLS
Knoll
knoll.com

CORIAN BARS
DuPont
dupont.com

TRANSLUCENT GYM LIGHTING
Barrisol USA
barrisolusa.com

Architectural powerhouse Perkins + Will spearheaded the design along with local firm Hughes Litton Godwin, drafting numerous layouts before achieving a plan that reflected AutoTrader’s vision. Holder Construction then signed on as general contractor for the project and developed a building schedule divided into three phases, with demolition beginning in July 2010 and the finishing touches wrapping in January 2014. The three phases were necessary because the building was still occupied by its previous tenants.

Compounding the challenges of the schedule was the fact that AutoTrader’s other properties had leases that were set to expire at different times. David Heidlauf, AutoTrader Group’s general operations manager and the project manager for the new headquarters, characterized the situation as a “logistical nightmare,” but working together with CBRE, he and AutoTrader were able to move the company’s staff into the new space in a timely manner while also finding new homes for the Perimeter Summit tower’s several former tenants.

The first phase involved the build-out of floors 1–7, 9, 10, and the cafeteria; the second phase involved floors 8 and 14–18; and the third phase involved floors 11 and 12. Two to three floors were completed per month, and Autotrader helped the building’s previous tenants move out while bringing in its sleek Knoll and Kimball furniture from its older venues.

With whole floors covered in bright greens and purples, and with bright-orange break rooms, the AutoTrader building is not going for subtlety. “We are not a quiet company,” Heidlauf says. “We believe in being bold and loud, and our colors reflect that.” Additionally, the building’s emphasis on daylighting, with glass doors and car-window-shaped glass portholes cut into interior conference-room walls, makes the office colors pop even more. “We believe in keeping things light, bright, and airy,” Heidlauf says.

Inspired by AutoTrader’s combination of car and tech savvy, Perkins + Will designed the office drywall with a heavy emphasis on compound curves and angles to create a feeling of movement. The design firm also introduced “wayfinding” elements—lines on the floor to guide guests and workers to their destinations—in the building’s central hallways, and it placed magnetic signs that hang from the ceiling and mimic road signage, denoting where specific rooms are located. As a final touch, floor-to-ceiling “tachometers” situated next to the elevators mark each floor level and track the elevator’s progress.

Corian tables in each break room  are shaped like the inner portion of  a V-8 engine, with stools positioned  as pistons would be.
Corian tables in each break room
are shaped like the inner portion of
a V-8 engine, with stools positioned
as pistons would be.

To separate rooms, the office is equipped with Skyfold walls, “Which is like a huge garage door that comes out of the ceiling,” Heidlauf explains, adding that the material is practically soundproof.

The hallway layout of each floor resembles the route of a car engine’s serpentine belt running around the engine block, and the break rooms on all levels each have a 10-foot-long, bar-height table fabricated out of Corian in the shape of the inner portion of a V-8 engine. Bar stools have been placed along the sides of the tables, like pistons.

Down in the company’s parking deck is the two-story-tall, 10,000-square-foot Octane Fitness Center, which is free for employees. And the company’s cafeteria, the Roadside Diner Café, pays homage to highway eateries and road-trip nostalgia, with booths shaped like the backseats of cars and tiling designed to look like asphalt.

Elements such as carpeting made from recycled plastic bottles, low-VOC paint, daylight-harvesting systems, and energy-efficient lighting not only helped the building reach its LEED Silver rating but also now highlight the company’s contemporary outlook. Some employees didn’t initially catch on to the new headquarters’ automotive theme, likening the space more to Star Trek’s USS Enterprise. Heidlauf didn’t mind this, though, because it meant the office’s design had succeeded in its other goal: to represent AutoTrader as a modern, forward-looking company of the 21st century.

Walls are adorned with roadway imagery and signage to keep employees in an automotive state of mind.
Walls are adorned with roadway imagery and signage to keep employees in an automotive state of mind.
Floor-to-ceiling “tachometers” on every floor denote which level of the building the elevator is on.
Floor-to-ceiling “tachometers” on every floor denote which level of the building the elevator is on.