BR Toyota has a new home

BR Toyota (trading as Lendar Auto) was established by Len Idensohn back in 1995. It was a service centre for all makes of vehicles with an original staff of three. It was situated on the outskirts of Harare in Mount Hampden, past the Westgate Shopping Centre, and it was intended to provide convenience for Harare residents in the area as well as for the surrounding farming regions like Mazoe and Bindura. In 2000 the company was awarded a Toyota dealership and it has continued to grow since then and now has a staff contingent of around 28 people in their workshops, sales rooms and administration divisions. In 2014 they were awarded the Toyota Service Dealer and Dealer of the Year award.

Idensohn holds a current Toyota Master Diagnostic Technician Certificate which is internationally recognised and guarantees that customers can be assured of the highest standards of workmanship. All of BR Toyota’s workshop staff continually undergo further training, in Zimbabwe and South Africa, to keep them up to date with the latest technology and specialised diagnostic systems. In 2017 BR Toyota started developing their new showroom and workshop situated within Arundel Village in Mount Pleasant, breaking ground in October of the same year.

The idea was to bring Toyota excellence closer to Harare residents, affording customers the convenience of all the shop and services within Arundel Village, and creating a one stop experience for their clientele. The concept for the showroom and workshop was initially formulated in consultation with Idensohn from Toyota and Ximex Management Services – developers and managers of Arundel Village. Local firm Pearce, McComish, Tarabuku were commissioned for the architectural designs and specifications. The design needed to accommodate all of BR Toyota’s needs and requirements, including the pit, the workshop bays with car lifts and all the diagnostic equipment, the wash bay, and the showroom all on the ground floor, with the spares store, offices and meeting rooms on the mezzanine. In addition the design needed to conform to Toyota’s strict international standards. Toyota’s specifications are aimed at outlets in developed countries and occasionally had to be adapted or modified to suit the availability of materials and technologies accessible in Zimbabwe and the region.

To this end Mr McComish together with Mr Idensohn visited Toyota dealerships in South Africa for research and have maintained the ‘look and feel’ of the Toyota ethos with minimal compromises. The result is a minimalist and modern looking building that meets all the requirements of the new BR Toyota showroom and workshop, Toyota Motor Corporation’s international regulations, and Arundel Village’s design requests. The façade overlooking Quorn Avenue is mostly double height glass allowing natural sunlight to flood into the showroom and giving passers-by a great view of the vehicles on show. At night the showroom is lit up inside creating a fabulous (and tempting) display for passing motorists. In addition the design needed to be compatible with the overall architectural aesthetic of the Village.

Toyota regulations specify showrooms around the world meet their requirements in terms of units of lighting or lux. The Quorn Avenue frontage also includes silver aluminium roller shutter doors for access to the workshops giving the building a kind of industrial chic look. Apart from the signage the exterior of the building is minimalist and unadorned so that the vehicles become the star feature of the picture. The street facing building frontage is partially set back under the bullnosed roof overhang and it’s crowned by a series of 9 A-shaped porticos. As the showroom is east facing it receives direct sun in the morning so the porticos help partially shelter the glass from direct sun while still allowing a generous amount of natural light to filter in. The showroom has glass panels on its north facing aspect allowing for winter sun to warm up the space while in summer there’s no direct sunlight. The porticos also offer shelter over the customers’ walk in entrance. In addition they echo the architectural design of the main shopping mall which has A-shaped dormer windows set into the first floor roofs. Arundel Village is continuously growing and evolving so the developers are keen to maintain a sense of design continuity creating a coherent identity. The choice of materials – glass, brick and Chromadek – helps to blend in with the existing mallThere’s ample off road parking for customers in front of the building behind the open palisade fencing which demarcates the space from the main road.

The piling, paving and drainage was done by Esor Construction. The exterior signage was supplied by Nimtec Corporate Signage Specialists based in South Africa, who are one of the only signage experts in the region authorised to supply Toyota’s corporate branding. Toyota insists that all corporate signage complies with their international standards. The showroom interior is understated and uncluttered with simple pale wood desks, dark grey, almost black, granite coloured floor tiles and a double height ceiling so the vehicles can be seen with no distractions – sort of like an art gallery with the vehicles as the art! The new workshops are state of the art too. The workshop has a steel spanned roof so that the vast space is completely open and unobstructed by supporting pillars, making it easier to manoeuvre vehicles to their respective bays.

The floor is specially reinforced float finished concrete to accommodate the weight of the vehicles. The floor’s been finished with an extremely durable self-levelling epoxy coating. The epoxy finish is easy to clean so there are none of the usual oil and grease stains associated with busy automotive work spaces. Like the showroom the workshop floor and walls are predominantly white and the work space is very well lit. This gives the workshop a clean and well-ordered – almost clinical – look, ensuring all equipment is kept tidy and in place. Behind the workshop is the specially designed and built wash bay.

The structure incorporates a superior drainage and waste management system to dispose of oils and chemicals used in their day to day business. It’s an advanced four compartment system ensuring that toxic chemicals like oil, grease and detergents are not released into the soil or groundwater. The workshop and wash bays are compliant with the strictest environmental standards so it’s eco-friendly.

The project was overseen and managed by Ximex Management Services who subcontracted the various service providers and specialists. While Ximex provided the shell of the structure BR Toyota have been largely responsible for the finishes and the interior fit out tailored to their needs. At present there’s a vacant lot between BR Toyota and the Village but Ximex have plans for future development on the site to expand the Village and incorporate the new showroom. The Village currently has around 90 tenants providing a diversified range of retail outlets, restaurants and coffee shops, service providers and offices. BR Toyota is the latest jewel in their portfolio.

words: Michael Nott

photos: Structure & Design

additional photos and plans: supplied by owners.

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