Designing movement through architectural space

McLaren Automotive Technology Centre

Architecture can be a powerful tool. World leaders have historically used grand building design to make bold political statements. Yet what impact do architecture and the built environment have on how we live, work, interact, and our creative thinking?

The McLaren Technology Centre is the niche automotive brand’s headquarters on the outskirts of London in Surrey. The work of architect Norman Foster and his practice Foster + Partners, this 500,000 m² building and adjoining production facility was shortlisted for the prestigious Stirling Prize when it was constructed in 2005 (the production centre was added on in 2011). Every visit to this semi-circular, glass-walled building that engulfs a lake and wildlife, introduces an element of surprise.

McLaren Automotive Technology Centre, employee entrance

On our last visit, we entered via the employee route. It offers an intriguing journey designed to cleanse your mind as you enter this sanctuary. Foster worked closely with the former McLaren Automotive boss Ron Dennis in the design of this place so every element, every little detail (even the flower arrangements in the lobby) are composed. Much like Formula 1 and high-performance road cars that are created here, nothing is purely decorative in this building.

McLaren Automotive Technology Centre

The ‘cleansing’ tunnel leads you to a portal – a small circular lift that transports you up and into the HQ’s open space where racecars past and present are displayed clearly against the backdrop of the lake. The experience is cinematic in its most brilliant sense, and yes mildly James Bond in theme. At McLaren, the building’s exterior and interior design is choreographing our movement and perhaps shaping the psyche. Walking around the polished and serene environment, you almost feel like whispering, walking on tiptoes.

McLaren Automotive Technology Centre

The production facility is equally alluring for it does not resemble any other car factory on the planet. It is almost clinical in its cleanliness; the cars and components are lined up with such precision, and even the non-automated car making side runs smoothly as if automated.

The sports cars and supercars being envisaged and built here are of the highest quality – pure in engineering and equally in design. A sneak preview of the upcoming Super Series and it is possibly the most complete and brave car for the marque to date. The building’s clean lines and surfaces, and almost abstracted graphic segments, are reflected in the cars that come off the production line here.

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McLaren Automotive Technology Centre lift
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