A meeting place for aware city dwellers who are on the go. Where you can meet over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Where you can check out the crowd and shop for selected design objects. And – if you want – try out the latest car model. That’s what Volvo Studio wants to be.
The car industry is increasingly interested in displaying itself in the centre of cities. The explanation is largely that the purchasing process has changed in line with digitalisation.Today’s car buyers don’t start by going round to different showrooms in the outskirts, but rather research online. Only when the decision has usually already been taken on which car and model to choose do buyers visit a dealer.
That’s why Volvo Cars is now taking another step with its new initiative, Volvo Studio.“We want to meet our customers where they live and reside,” says Erik Stigmar, Retail Experience Manager at Volvo Car Group, continuing: “We are doing this through creating urbane meeting places; a kind of ”extended living room” with café and bar, where passers-by can drop in for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and simultaneously experience the feel and values that Volvo stands for. It is where we can present the progress we are making, for example within electrification. But also that we are providing access to mobility in a new way through ”Care by Volvo”, a leasing offer which includes a number of services to make things convenient for our customers.”
He says that it will also be possible to use Volvo Studios for events. “We have high ambitions. Our target group is highly aware and thinks critically. The environment should relate to our Swedish legacy and everything it represents in the form of authenticity in terms of materials, attention to detail and the relatively ”stripped down” architecture – which is associated with Swedish design and architecture.
Everything must be ”for real” and ”genuine”, just like the cars we produce.”
PROUD ORIGIN. Volvo Studio also sells other types of design products that Volvo Cars feel match its own quality and which can contribute to strengthening the brand. It might be anything from handbags to drinking glasses.
“They are selected with care and the idea is that they should enhance the experience when you visit a Volvo Studio. It is usually Swedish or Scandinavian brands. We are proud of our origins,” Erik Stigmar says.
The first Volvo Studio opened in Milan in spring 2017, the second in Tokyo in autumn 2017. During spring 2018 the third one will open in Kungsträdgården in Stockholm.
Which other cities are on the cards and how many there will be in total has yet to be decided.
“First we want to evaluate how the three establishments are developing, and subsequently in which other locations we want to be and those decisions are influenced by a number of factors. But it does involve global cities that are considered to be leaders within trends and life style.”
In order to create the ultimate concept for Volvo Studio, Volvo Cars announced an architectural competition that was won by Tham & Videgård Arkitekter, an architect’s office that has been very successful of late, with projects including the much discussedand praised new School of Architecture in Stockholm and several others that were awarded the prestigious Kasper Sahlin prize.
“It’s true, we have previously worked on retail commissions, but the car world was new for us,” say Bolle Tham and Martin Videgård.
The first thing they did was to immerse themselves in what the Volvo Cars brand stands for, including through meetings with the head designer Thomas Ingenlath. He is leading the process of changing Volvo Cars into a premium brand in the same class as Audi and BMW.
“We concluded that in an international perspective Volvo is a Swedish brand. So we wanted to create an environment that is easy to interpret, in a context based on Swedish nature: sea, mountain, forest. For the visitor it should feel like entering Volvo Cars’ living room,” they explain.
THREE ELEMENTS. The concept is based on three main elements: A concrete floor which is reminiscent of grey Swedish granite, a billowing wooden wall, which is evocative of Swedish forests, and a luminous ceiling to represent the sky and the Nordic light.
“The concept can be adapted depending on the premises in which it is going to installed. The slatted wooden walls can be curved pretty much however you want,” Martin Videgård says.
A lot of work went into it. The ceiling consists of a gigantic LED screen, where the motif can vary. It can be a blue sky with clouds, a sunset glow and so on. But it always concerns ambience, not commercial messages.
The LED ceiling was designed by ÅF. Otherwise, Senab has developed and produced prototypes for most of the interior fixtures and fittings and subsequently dealt with procurement, delivery and installation.
“There are a large number of specially manufactured components: The billowing slatted walls in ash veneer, the bar counters, the display cabinets, the display tables and so forth. It is about realising the architects’ visions by ensuring that it is possible to manufacture at a reasonable price,”says Christian Hiller, Purchasing Manager at Senab.
WHOLEHEARTEDLY INVOLVED. Senab’s designer is Andreas Norrby, and he worked in close collaboration with Volvo Cars and the architects to produce the prototypes, while Christian Hiller was project manager, dealing with procurement from different producers.
Bolle Tham and Martin Videgård say that the commission expanded during the period, which was naturally highly gratifying: “On the whole, Volvo Cars is a dream customer. They really give it everything, no compromising,” Bolle Tham says.
Martin Videgård agrees: “Yes, what Volvo Cars has done is unique. By getting wholeheartedly involved, investing in good architecture with beautiful proportions and quality materials throughout, they have gone much further than other car companies in developing something that is as far from a traditional car showroom as possible.”
Text: Tove Gyllenstierna
Photo: Anders Modig
This article was originally published in Reflections # 1 2018