March 1, 2012

Start Your…Batteries: RBA Renovates Omaha’s H&H Chevrolet Dealership

Randy Brown‘s stance on car culture and suburban sprawl is well known. “We’ve done artwork and installations, talking about the negative side,” he says. Was it therefore a surprise when RBA, once known as Randy Brown Architects, was asked by Omaha’s H&H Chevrolet to renovate its 1950’s dealership-showroom, accessories shop, lounges, and offices? You bet. Though it made more sense in light of the fact that Chevy was introducing an electric car, the Volt.

Embracing the equation design equals sales, Brown practically rebuilt the place, all 30,500 square feet. “It had to knock people’s socks off,” he says. An exterior face-lift entailed signage, glazing systems, a rubber roof, and landscaping. The real overhaul occurred inside, setting the stage for the cars in their gasoline-saving glory. “We looked at the buying experience and found that the biggest negative was taking customers to back offices,” he notes. Small, dark ones at that. Accordingly, he concentrated on openness for the showroom, where a canopy in Chevy’s signature cobalt blue diffuses light from ceiling fixtures, casting a blue tint on the floor’s slate-gray tile. Only the president and the finance personnel have bona fide offices. Two managers oversee operations from a shared maple desk; sales associates have modular panel workstations mere feet from the vehicles-and the customers. Aerodynamically curved partitions of corrugated, perforated aluminum map out the three waiting areas. They include a complimentary coffee bar, Pit Stop.

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