LOS ANGELES – Dave Marek, director of design forR&D Americas, the Japanese auto maker’s research and development arm, is living the dream after recently completing the downtown relocation of the company’s Advanced Design Studio here.
The U.S. design team has been responsible for much of the forward-focused styling that has influenced theand Acura product lines. The move from the trendy Old Town section of nearby Pasadena comes as the studio is handed a leading role in developing Honda’s global advanced automotive designs, working with teams in Germany, Italy and Japan.
Established in 2006, the California designers have developed numerous concept vehicles showcased at the Los Angeles auto show, most recently a hybrid version of the NSX 4-wheel-drive sports car t Acura featured at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Adorned with contemporary artwork and urban-oriented materials that promote a sense of forward mobility, the new 6,500-sq.-ft. (60-sq.-m) center includes a bright-orange shipping container crafted into a conference area. Recent and classic Honda product designs and technology can be spotted throughout.
“The dream was that we needed the freedom to explore design,” Marek tells WardsAuto. “Mark Twain said, ‘You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.’ So, we wanted to strengthen our focus, and we’re confident this new location will enable our designers to strengthen the emotional, artistic side of advanced design to strengthen our design DNA.”
The original relationship between the design studio and the Pasadena foothill community initially seemed to work, he says, but eventually the staff of about 10 designers needed to tap into a greater level of creativity. “We wanted to be more cutting edge and with the urbanization of everywhere, not just California.”
Marek determined the studio needed to be part of downtown L.A., surrounded by the trappings of a district in the midst of renewal, “where it’s a little more artistic and a little more free.”
The new design studio is located on the ground floor of a postmodern structure known as the Apex Building. Facing outward from the center’s glass-paneled entrance are oversized projection screens with a constant stream of videos and stills depicting Honda products, design projects and engineering feats.
Marek says the sidewalk display is one of the ways the design studio is sharing its vision with the public. Although Honda is known for keeping its product-planning close to the vest, it’s important to engage the wider community and teach them about the center’s work. “Recruiting-wise, we need to have some interaction, giving more exposure to what we’re doing here.”
The design studio has an ideal location to meet those goals. It’s only a few blocks north of the city’s convention center, the longtime venue for the auto show.
It’s also a short walk from L.A. Live, the high-profile entertainment complex that includes the Staples Center, home to the L.A. Lakers and Clippers professional basketball teams and the L.A. Kings professional hockey team.