If you’ve driven down the Airport Road recently you’re bound to have seen the new car sales showroom (at 31 Airport Road) with its eye catching red, black and glass façade. The iconic modern building is the new headquarters for the Grand Auto Body Shop and BYD’s electric vehicle showroom. It’s also home to BYD’s solar power division and Lindezi Travel and Tours – all of which fall under the umbrella of the Tsapo Group of companies. Formerly situated at 184 Mutare Road in Msasa the group re-located to the Airport Road premises in March this year.

The development was a collaboration between Kingswood Contracting – civil and building contractors – and the Inviktvs Design Group. 4M Construction acted as the project managers with Grid Transmission supplying and installing the steel structure for the walls and the Chromadek roof and Aluminium Solutions installing the front glass façade.

The back section houses Grand Auto Body Shop’s workshops and spares section. GABS have installed state of the art new technology for all their vehicle repairs and servicing, including three dedicated spray booths for different body finishing processes. The floor slab was especially re-inforced to accommodate the weight of the hydraulic vehicle lifting equipment and extra-large doors allow access for bigger trucks and buses. A sequence of translucent roof sheets provides natural light for the workshop while a series of whirlybirds punctuate the roof for ventilation.

The front façade is particularly designed to catch the attention of passing traffic. Large glass sheets set in black aluminium frames cover most of the front and partially wrap around the two sides giving the maximum ‘shop window’ display frontage. Above the glass, at the front edge of the concealed roof, a horizontal band, clad in charcoal grey Hulabond panels, appears to float above the red and black solid wall sections. On the left hand front corner is a square column also clad in Hulabond. While it appears solid it’s actually a hollow frame with louvres sections at the top and bottom to allow trapped hot air – heated by the afternoon sun – to escape without creating an oven inside. On the right hand corner is an exposed triangular steel frame which enhances the ‘industrial chic’ look of the building but it’s not just decorative, it serves a structural purpose too to support the roof.

The building is on two floors and roughly divided in half – front (street facing) and back – with each half having approximately 1,200 sqm of floor space. The front section has a mezzanine which greatly increases the usable area for offices and for showing off the vehicles on offer.

The building is surrounded by a paved area providing parking in front and access to the workshops at the rear. It’s separated from the road by a see through Clear View palisade which provides security without hindering sight lines. Roughly in the centre of the façade is the main entrance flanked by the red painted brick wall on the left and a slatted black wall section on the right.

The red wall provides a striking background for the white ‘BYD Build Your Dreams’ logo which is illuminated at night. The black wall is plastered and painted brick with black rectangular steel tubing mounted vertically as a kind of textured 3D cladding. The repeated vertical steel tubing pattern and the two central walls are meant to break the horizontal lines of the 60m long front elevation.

To the right of the black wall the lower ground floor frontage doesn’t have any glass, instead there are two large black roller shutter doors providing vehicle access to the workshop behind. The roller doors are surrounded by more of the Hulabond panelling. Above the solid ground floor wall more glass panels provide a view of the upper level display floor which is particularly striking at night when the vehicles inside are lit up. Access for the vehicles on the upper level is via a hydraulic lift on the side.

The main entrance has a small portico sheltering it which also serves to accentuate the sense of scale. At the entrance the portico is normal height but as you pass through into the building the space opens up to double volume height. The stairs and ramp are clad in porcelain tiles that look like black marble and a stainless steel bannister leads you into the showroom.

Inside, to the right, Hulabond panels hide the ablutions while tinted glass allows a partial view of the workshop. Directly in front is the main reception desk with a pale grey wood grain front and a Ceasarstone counter. Behind the reception desk the steel and teak staircase leads up to the first floor while behind the stairs is a glassed in cashier’s office. The staircase has glass and stainless steel bannisters which are repeated along the mezzanine gallery. Almost opposite the reception desk – on the inside of the red wall, is a small coffee bar for customers.

The main showroom has a sort of art gallery feel to it with glossy pale grey porcelain floor tiles and the double volume ceiling. The ceiling is made of timber slats treated in a bleached, whitewashed finish which allows the grain to show through. Ultra-modern swirly LED lights hang from the roof. The timber slats are continued down the wall behind the coffee bar and repeated on the bridge behind the staircase, although this time the timber has been stained in a variety of more natural, warmer colours.

Set against the back wall of the showroom are a series of offices and a small boardroom. The offices and boardroom are sheltered from the afternoon sun by the overhanging mezzanine floor. The offices have wide timber slats – sort of like vertical blinds – to demarcate them from the showroom, and there’s some comfortable seating areas, like mini lounges, for waiting customers. The overall effect of the showroom is a clean, high tech, industrial look, softened by the judicious use of timber to soften and warm up the ambiance.

On the first floor, overlooking the showroom, are the management offices and the executive boardroom, all set behind aluminium frames and glass panels, echoing the materials and the palette of the exterior. There’s also a small kitchenette and the staff ablutions. Because the offices are set quite far back in the structure they’re naturally sheltered from the afternoon sun.

This section is connected by a bridge behind the staircase to the Lindezi offices and the top floor showroom.BYD is the business unit of the Tsapo Group, bringing the latest renewable and sustainable energy solutions to Zimbabwe, in particular solar power and fully electric vehicles. As a modern, technologically advanced company their new headquarters are suitably high-tech, industrial and attention grabbing.Inviktvs Design Group is a young and emerging Harare-based, multidisciplinary, bespoke-design practice.

To discover more of their work head over to their website: www.idg.co.zw

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text by Michael Nott

photos by Structure and Design

additional photos and renders courtesy of Inviktvs Design Group

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