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Architecture + Branding: Curvaceous facade of Porsche dealership design prototype emblematic of German brand’s “form follows function” mantra

1-More common, still exclusive

If you find yourself seeing more Porsches on the road, at the mall, on your commute, or in the Costco parking lots, you are hardly alone. A product onslaught has seen sales continue to grow as the brand entered new uncharted market segments. Derided by purists, the introduction of the Cayenne SUV more than a decade ago is largely credited with keeping the company coffers flush, thus helping to finance its core performance cars, and racing programs. Concrete proof is no further than the sublime 918 Spyder supercar, or Porsche’s enviable record at The 24 Hours of Le Mans (24 heures du Mans) (source: porsche.com, autoblog.com, guideautoweb.com).

Powered by red-hot SUV sales, Stuttgart, Germany, based Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, typically shortened to Porsche AG, delivered more than 225,000 vehicles globally in 2015 (source: porscheoflondon.com). Intuitively, selling more Porsches would seem to dent the prestige that comes with owning a luxury brand. Yet, by mirroring the increase in the total seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), which for example is projected to exceed 17 million in 2016 in the USA, the brand maintains its exclusiveness, in percentage terms (jdpower.com).

And, although newer models such as the Macan have moved Porsche into lower price points, it is far from a democratization of luxury. As anyone who has casually glanced at the options sheet can attest, the brand still commands a premium price tag.

2-B.C. (Before Cayenne)

A low-volume purveyor of sports cars for much of its 65-plus year history, Porsche cars were sold principally through from a network of small, boutique style dealerships.

Case in point, American architect Frank Lloyd Wright had designed an early New York city showroom in the 1950s.

Did You Know Frank Lloyd Wright Designed One of Porsche’s First Showrooms in the US?

However, a patchwork of independently minded, regionally distinct, inherently inconsistent artisanal dealerships which shared few common traits ultimately characterized the brand’s retail approach.

For many years, elements such as brand colours, signage, mullion spacing/storefront glazing lent some semblance of consistency, yet the brand displayed a less stringent and authoritative approach to its built-design controls than it did to its automotive design language/form factor.

Porsche dealership 11011 Santa Monica Blvd Los Angeles CA 5 2007 https___www.google

Beverly Hills Porsche (circa 2007), front 3/4 view, 11011 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, California (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 611 Montreal Road Ottawa ON 8 2009 https___www.google

Mark Motors Porsche (circa 2009), front 3/4 view, 611 Montreal Road, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 5740 Cushing Parkway Fremont CA 4 2011 https___www.google

Porsche of Fremont, front 3/4 view, 5740 Cushing Parkway, Fremont, California (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 22 Mineola Ave Roslyn Heights NY 2 https___www.google

Porsche Roslyn, front 3/4 view, 22 Mineola Avenue, Roslyn Heights, New York (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 4627 Baum Blvd Pittsburgh PA 5 2014 https___www.google

Auto Palace Porsche, front 3/4 view, 4627 Baum Blvd, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (source: maps.goole.com)

However, by the turn of the century, things would begin to change drastically.

3-2001 forward

In 2001, Porsche would take the wraps off the makings of a corporate identity program/architectural identity that featured a high-tech image.

The design prototype, located in Laval, Québec, Canada, was the first to display the extremely linear design topped by a large, sweeping curved metallic headwall above the expansive glazed product showroom (source: new.alucobondusa.com).

Porsche dealership 2455 boulevard Chomedey Laval QC 13 2014 https___www.google

Porsche Lauzon, front view, 2455 boulevard Chomedey, Laval, Québec, Canada (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 2455 boulevard Chomedey Laval QC 3 https___www.google

Porsche Lauzon, left side view, 2455 boulevard Chomedey, Laval, Québec, Canada (source: maps.google.com)

Inspired by the prototype, new dealerships began adopting the smooth, sweeping curve design. By late 2002, roughly 30 dealerships, including Pfaff Porsche in the greater Toronto area had already adopted the new Porsche National Prototype (source: probuildings.com, new.alucobondusa.com).

Porsche dealership 101 Auto Park Circle Woodbridge ON 3 2014 https___www.google

Photo: Pfaff Porsche, right side 3/4 view, 101 Auto Park Circle, Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada (source: maps.google.com)

DSC07956 POR_Porsche dealership 101 Auto Park Circle Woodbridge ON

Pfaff Porsche, front 3/4 view, 101 Auto Park Circle, Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada

DSC07952 POR_Porsche dealership 101 Auto Park Circle Woodbridge ON

Pfaff Porsche, right side 3/4 view, 101 Auto Park Circle, Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada

Progressively, the new curvaceous design would roll out across the United States, and the globe.

Porsche dealership 3419 Route 46 Parsippany NJ 2 https___www.google

Paul Miller Porsche, left side 3/4 view, 3419 Route 46, Parsippany, New Jersey (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 3419 Route 46 Parsippany NJ 8 https___www.google

Paul Miller Porsche, right side 3/4 view, 3419 Route 46, Parsippany, New Jersey (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 3700 North Causeway Boulevard Metairie LA 2 https___www.google

Porsche of New Orleans, front view, 3700 North Causeway Boulevard, Metairie, Louisiana (source: maps.google.com)

Lax on a set size, geometry, length, width, height, articulation or orientation, the prototype offered numerous avenues to assemble the unique aesthetic elements into new forms.

Porsche dealership 917 Motor City Drive Colorado Springs CO 7 https___www.google

Porsche of Colorado Springs, front view, 917 Motor City Drive, Colorado Springs, Colorado (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 6016 Collection Drive Langley BC 5 https___www.google

Porsche Centre Langley, left 3/4 side view, 6016 Collection Drive, Langley, British Columbia, Canada (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 6016 Collection Drive Langley BC 6 https___www.google

Porsche Centre Langley, front 3/4 side view, 6016 Collection Drive, Langley, British Columbia, Canada (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 6016 Collection Drive Langley BC 11 https___www.google

Porsche Centre Langley, right 3/4 side view, 6016 Collection Drive, Langley, British Columbia, Canada (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 6603 L Street Omaha NE 5 2011 https___www.google

Porsche Omaha, front 3/4 view, 6603 L Street, Omaha, Nebraska (source: maps.google.com)

Sleek and modern, the Porsche prototype echoes the newer buildings in Porsche’s home in Zuffenhausen (source: thetruthaboutcars.com).

Porsche Porscheplatz 1, 70435 Stuttgart DE 6 https___www.google

Porsche head office, front 3/4 view, Porscheplatz 1, 70435, Stuttgart, Germany (source: maps.google.com)

Punctuated by the curved metal panels siting atop an expansive aluminum and glass façade, the expressive design is wholly consistent with a brand which is known for speed, precision and German engineering.

Running the gamut from small, single storey locations measuring in at several thousand square feet to multi-level facilities nearing 50,000 square feet in size, the Porsche National Prototype design is extremely flexible (source: probuildings.com, autonews.com, metaldesignsystems.com, ewspanels.com, techne.com.au, callisonrtkl.com, timescolonist.com, langleytimes.com, PorscheAtlantaPerimeter.com). However, the prototype design, predominantly skewed towards stand alone/free-standing buildings, needs further modifications to fit into other building types.

4-Deconstructed

As not all markets provide the volumes that can support/justify the capital investment to build fully independent/isolated/free-standing Porsche dealerships, deconstructing the prototype into its core, distinct, elements and re-assembling these into re-imaged spaces is required.

Seizing on the opportunities offered by the unique curved metal facade, finished off in the brand’s signature silver colour, Porsche dealerships manage to stand out even when ganged amongst other brands.

Porsche dealership 2668 Laurens Road Greenville SC 5 https___www.google COMBO

Porsche of Greenville, front 3/4 view, 2668 Laurens Road, Greenville, South Carolina (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 9393 South Memorial Tulsa OK 5 2011 https___www.google COMBO

Jackie Cooper Imports, front view, 9393 South Memorial, Tulsa, Oklahoma (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 5603 Roanne Way Greensboro NC 3 https___www.google COMBO

Porsche of Greensboro, front view, 5603 Roanne Way, Greensboro, North Carolina (source: maps.google.com)

DSC06242 POR_Porsche dealership 5885 East Circle Drive Cicero NY

Porsche of Syracuse, partial front view, 5885 East Circle Drive Cicero, New York

In other instances, modifying an existing building to better conform to the prototype, and applying a variant of the curved façade can greatly  accelerate the speed at which relocated/expanding or new dealerships can be up and running, all while respecting the brand design standards.

Porsche dealership 600 Oxford Street West London ON 4 2009 https___www.google

Cadillac dealership (circa 2009), front view, 600 Oxford Street West, London, Ontario, Canada (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 600 Oxford Street West London ON 5 2011 https___www.google

Porsche of London, front view, 600 Oxford Street West, London, Ontario (source: maps.google.com)

DSC08454 POR_Porsche dealership 600 Oxford Street London ON

Porsche of London, partial front 3/4 view, 600 Oxford Street West, London, Ontario, Canada

DSC08455 POR_Porsche dealership 600 Oxford Street London ON

Porsche of London, partial front view, 600 Oxford Street West, London, Ontario, Canada

Porsche dealership 24717 Gratiot Avenue Eastpointe MI 2 2008 https___www.google BMW

BMW dealership (circa 2008), front view, 24717 Gratiot Avenue, Eastpointe, Michigan (source: maps.google.com)

Porsche dealership 24717 Gratiot Avenue Eastpointe MI 3 2011 https___www.google

Porsche of the Motor City Porsche, front 3/4 view, 24717 Gratiot Avenue, Eastpointe, Michigan (source: maps.google.com)

In fact, it is getting rarer to spot a Porsche dealership not sporting the newer, sleek, curved, mechanized aesthetic.

Overwhelmingly well received, more than 75% of the U.S. Porsche dealerships are renovating or expanding to meets Porsche’s design requirements (source: autonews.com). Additionally, in order to accommodate the growing number of nameplates and additional Porsche vehicles on the road, those that have made the investment have generally opted to expand their facility, in some cases quite substantially/significantly/dramatically due to higher actual and projected volumes (source: autonews.com). Nonetheless, even as the brand has grown in volume, the dealer count has been culled, dropping from above to 200 to 189 in the U.S. (source: autonews.com).

Even though numerous dealers have embraced the new look, several dealers have yet to make the leap. Often times hampered by ill-suited building types, the very limited number of holdouts could well dilute the effectiveness of the new visual/brand image/architectural identity.

Porsche dealership 6800 Avenida Encinas Carlsbad CA 9 https___www.google

Hoehn Motors, front view, 6800 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad, California

Yet, the unique curved silver headwall over a fully glazed showroom aesthetic has thus far created a strong cognitive association with the Porsche brand worldwide.

5-For all seasons

Steadfast in its belief that “A Porsche is no ordinary sports car, but a sports car for everyday driving, whatever the weather”, the brand has recently pursued a marketing strategy that sought ardently to convey how their vehicles are suitable for everyday use (source: porsche.com).

untitled snow

untitled school bus

untitled beach

Porsche advertisements (source: Porsche.com)

Positioning their vehicles as engineered to be driven daily, and riding the SUV wave, Porsche brought new faces into the fold, and turned a previously seasonal cycle of selling limited quantities of high-powered sports cars into a year-round business of selling a plethora of sedans, SUVs and coupes for its dealers.

DSC07731 POR_Porsche dealership 3535 Chemin Cote de Liesse Montreal QC

Porsche Prestige, 3535 Chemin Cote de Liesse, Montréal, Québec, Canada

DSC10813 POR_Porsche dealership 611 Montreal Road Ottawa ON

Mark Motors Porsche, front 3/4 view, 611 Montreal Road, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Not surprisingly, the dramatic transformation in the product portfolio and sales mix has coincided with a change in the brand’s retail presence, built-design aesthetic, and unique architectural identity.

 

Disclaimer: All brands and trademarks are property of their respective owners.

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About marc lortie

marc lortie is an Architectural Designer (Technologist) currently based in Ottawa, Ontario (Canada). marc has several years of experience working in Canada and the USA on various projects, including commercial shopping centres, big-box stores, industrial plants, educational facilities, warehouses, storage facilities, intermodal facilities, hotels, offices, and residential developments. marc is a graduate of Carleton University, Algonquin College and La Cite Collegiale.

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