May 8, 2019

Toyota and Mazda’s divergent paths both end at a new North American headquarters

By Samantha Schwirck

Automakers are relocating their North American headquarters left and right. Over the past year or so, Mercedes-Benz found a new home base in Atlanta; Subaru settled in Camden, NJ; and just a few years after Cadillac moved from Detroit to New York City, the company announced plans to return back home.

For lighting professionals, these moves present business opportunities. Two examples: Mazda and Toyota’s new North American HQs. While Toyota set up a 2.1-million sq ft campus in Plano, TX, and Mazda moved into five levels of an urban highrise in Irvine, CA, both projects were completed in 2017, both earned 2018 IES Illumination Awards of Merit, and both went on to receive LEED certifications. The following exploration, however, shows how the projects’ commonalities all but stop there.

Toyota North American Headquarters

Plano, TX

Everything is bigger in Texas, but for Toyota’s new $1 billion HQ in Plano, size was not superfluous—it was the motive. “Toyota recognized it was time to re-envision a more connected future,” says Michael Janicek, senior lighting designer with Corgan (Dallas), which prompted the company to bring its entire North American workforce together to one location with room for 6,500 employees. The new 100-acre campus includes a central courtyard surrounded by six main office buildings and a quality control center, all of which are connected above and below ground by amenity buildings, training facilities and mechanical spaces.

Key to the project’s success was a design that would encourage and entice people to use the entire site. “Navigating through the headquarters, employees experience a natural desire not only to move forward, but also up, down, inside, outside and all around the campus,” Janicek says. “The desire to move stems from a simple human truth: seeing is believing. Openness and visibility were central to creating a feeling and desire for movement.”

That concept is achieved via large, glass windows for natural light and direct views of the outdoors, as well as LED fixtures with daylight control and system-wide monitoring. Light wells and clerestories enable daylight to also reach core-circulation and underground amenity spaces. “With very deep floor plates, there was a desire for natural light to the core,” Janicek says. “Large oval light wells were placed mid-plate to reflect light from the glass surfaces during the day and down to the first floor. No lighting was included in the light wells or clerestories as it was felt they should be like windows—dark at night.”

Linear fixtures complement daylight from clerestories in circulation and amenity spaces. In amenity spaces, the linears are used alongside decorative pendants and downlights selected to provide a change of pace for users stepping away from their work environment. In circulation areas, the linears stand alone. “For circulation areas at the core, a hard ceiling was used to define the path and the linear recessed fixture strengthens the cue,” Janicek says.

Two-by-two lay-in fixtures illuminate open-office spaces, while decorative fixtures with a slight color temperature change define break-out areas. “When seen across the floor, the lighting becomes a designator for where to find these types of spaces,” Janicek adds. “With the large number of break-out areas, each has a variation so not all appear the same.”

Finally, in high-ceiling lobbies and other areas where products are showcased, daylight studies helped inform a combination of natural light and concealed fixtures to maintain the design’s overall low-energy use.

Outside, the site incorporates 20,000 solar panels, which recover 33% of the complex’s annual energy usage, as well as a 400,000-gallon rainwater collection system. “The rainwater system is integrated into each parking structure light well and links to a weather-based control system that distributes captured resources to the entire site,” Janicek adds. The varied but integrated systems all contribute to the campus’s LEED Platinum certification, as well as its adherence to local code. “The city of Plano was an early adopter of light trespass and uplight restrictions,” Janicek says. “To comply, we restricted all exterior light to project inward while having very little or no backlight toward property lines. The interior courtyard uses a more decorative post-top to fill the space with more diffuse light.”

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Mazda North American Headquarters

Irvine, CA

Size did not have the same impact on the design for Mazda’s new North American HQ in Irvine, CA. Instead, lighting designers Rebecca Ceballos and Tanya Flores from local firm LPA, Inc., focused on delivering an on-brand experience within the confines of 97,000 sq ft.

“Mazda really wanted to go back to their Japanese cultural roots and have an homage to where they came from,” says Ceballos. “The headquarters very much pulled on that Japanese relation, which meant simple lines, very clean, and the lighting needed to not distract from but complement the interior design.”

Lines are the one design element that translates to the exterior, as illuminated rectangles signify where Mazda’s floors are in the 21-story tower.
Mounted to the wall and ceiling as opposed to the windows, the free standing frames of light also guide users through the interior by marking the end of collaboration areas in each open-office space. “The frames are slightly smaller than the window mullion so they can be viewed from outside, and they’re double sided so the light is on the outside and inside,” Ceballos adds.

Illumination in the collaboration areas leading up to each rectangle needed to maintain that sightline. “Instead of littering it with downlights or making the ceiling loud, we painted the ceiling black and used lines of light to draw your eyes to the rectangle,” Ceballos says. Recessed linear fixtures were the simplest and most comfortable solution. “We didn’t go too small because we didn’t want glare,” Ceballos says. “We chose 4-in. fixtures so when you’re looking at the light it’s not uncomfortable.”

Simple indirect/direct pendants by Focal Point continue the rectangle theme in adjacent openoffice spaces with gray open ceiling planes. “The open rectangle pendant exactly mirrored our open rectangles however, at the time, the optics were only 60% uplight, 40% downlight, and the ceiling was a little darker there, so we asked Focal Point if they could give us a little bit more downlight. They essentially turned the fixture upside down and made us an option that gave us 60% downlight, 40% uplight, which has a great contrast ratio as far as being evenly lit on the ceiling.”

Outside the office space, lighting in elevator lobbies maintains the simplistic aesthetic while referencing the Japanese term Kage, which translates as sunlight filtering through leaves. Each elevator lobby is defined by a distinct full-length wall pattern projected across a white wall, as well as pin spots accenting a black textured fabric wall.

“It was very important for them to have that [Kage] feeling when you get off the elevators,” Ceballos explains. “We couldn’t do it with backlit panels because it was cost prohibitive so we ended up doing it with gobo projectors. We mocked it up a couple of times to make sure we first nailed down the right fixture, because they’re big—the Source Four was the only one that would punch through the daylight from windows in the open offices on either side of the lobby—then our interiors team built a pocket for us and we tucked them up there.”

Care was also taken to hide fixtures in the first-floor lobby that doubles as a showroom. Custom adjustable fixture heads are hidden behind white baffles to create edge-lit planes that separate the showroom from the general lobby area, defined by wall grazers tucked into a cove to highlight wood paneling. The showroom fixtures were aimed and adjusted based on Mazda’s requirements. “We had instructions on what angle the light should be at to light the cars and what footcandles should be on the cars,” Ceballos says. “For the first aiming session, we had the guys that designed the cars on-site with us and they had very explicit ways they wanted the cars to be highlighted—like the front of the Miata which has a hot spot around the logo.”

A final challenge was illumination of videoconferencing rooms, which Mazda uses regularly to collaborate worldwide. “It was really difficult to find luminaires that would look good on video as well as not be glary for people participating,” Flores says, “and we still haven’t found an ideal fixture for that. Instead we have two layers of light—downlights for when it’s a board room and videoconferencing lights for when they’re training.”

One control interface integrates all of the lighting zones with the AV system and other building management systems including daylight harvesting and dimming, resulting in an overall LPD of .54, which beat California’s Title 24 requirements and earned the project a LEED Gold certification.


Samantha Schwirck

Samantha Schwirck is Managing Editor for... More info »